GDC 2011 – Unity

I have never used Unity before but am aware of what it does, so I found this talk fairly interesting =) May be useful in the future.  LINK

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GDC 2011- Patrick Redding, Splinter Cell

As part of GDc, Patrick Redding, the director of Splinter Cell: Convinction, made  a speech on te idea of cooperative co-op. He outlined 7 key featurs that allowed layers to feel more co-op’ed in the game.

Here are the few I found interesting:

Ring-fencing: this is where you hae checkpoints in whcih you have to wait for the other player to proceed to the next area. In SplinterCell, I think it was executed well, when I first played i I was on a tea with an experienced player so I whilst I was just getting used to the controls they were cruising killing everyone, so in my case the ring fencin allowed my experince to develop faster than it would if my partner had free roam of theenvironement. thispoint ten linked on to the idea of keeping players together. Mainly doneby making the game much harder when the players were seperated. In Splinter Cell if you are at the other end of the map, and you team mate gets injured, you have to srint over to revive them, so wy not stay together all the time? these are punitive systems apprently, never come across the term before – one player is rendered helpless. These seem to be used in multiplayer games alot more these days.

Patrick Redding finishes his speech with, ““Co-op is often the easiest way for a new player to get into a game.”.

I’m like a kid in a candy shop.

I have just come across an interview with Mary DeMarle, the narrative designer fo Dues Ex: Human Revolution! It is just awesome, it doesn’t go into great detail but she does explain a few differences that were made due to certain things working from a game dsign perspective but not working for the narrative. I hadn’t really though about these as two separate things before now. I’m not sure wheter thats a good thing or not. Anywhose, LINKS

EA ditches printed manuals

What has this world come to! Games are now not having printed manuals, instead they have in game walkthroughs. I hate in game walkthroughs, they have to be done right otherwise you just feel like you havewasted £40 to sit and look at some NCP telling you how to walk! Also, what, may i ask will happens to those fun little character profils you can read whilst waiting for the game to install? If games hub’s of information start turning into the FF Datalog I seriously won’t be able to cope, how can anyone serously read all that information, surely they take it in the first time in the cutscenes?

Lets all do the Voodoo Doll!

I have recently played on Bulletstorm after being forced by  friend as I hd previousy dismissed it on account of its demo.  I wn’t go into too much detail on the game as to not ruin anyones experience but all i’m going to say is well done, well done indeed. I’m a storyline freak, always have been, always will be, so upon playing thedemo of bulletstorm in which I was confronted with a ruthless, rough, and rather disgusting group of main characters I was severly put off the game. I thin it may have been thecheesiness of it all, justover the top witht he anti hero, seriously! BUT! I played it and when I found out the basic overview of the story I was quite surprised, because there is quite a good twist in it which I really liked. So, in terms of that, thumbs up! Anyways, I’m not keen on the whole point/arcade style of the shooter, but I have found an interview with Adrian Chmielarz, creative director, that was actually really interesting. In terms of the cre narrative, instead of using cut scenes to display amazingly graphic feats, they used them to show less ‘amazing stuff’. The reasn behind this was because they wanted to not have that moment when you have just fought through masses of enemies to get to the goal and then the cut scene start and your soul sort of dies alittle becuase you lose all that adrenline that was just pumping through your veins. Anyways, its an interesting concept to tone down he cutscene so that they seem less absract, but then it does lose some cinematic-ness, unless you have crazy angled cameras like Unchartered.

With 25,000 signatures you can do aything!

I love hearing about things like this, it just brightens up your day! A disabled gamer who was unable to play Dead Space 2 (PC) due to not being able to use his hands took to the internet to pos ta complaint at the fact that he could not re-map the button controls for the game to allow him to play using the mouse. Thisthen lead to a petition signed by over 25,000 people. when some of the guys at Visceral found out aboutit, the imediatley started working on a patch to allow a re-map.

I think this shows a lot of dedication from the team at Vsceral to its fans, especially the immediacy of the response. Its nice to know there are people out there willing to drop other stuff to make a game possible to play for possibly just one person, and I say this as a gamer and as a creative hoping to work alongside people like this.

Lifelike avatars on Kinect?

I heard through the grapevine that Micosoft have revealed that they are planning to revamp their Xbox avatars. My responce is: “Its about effin time!” . I’m sorry for being so biased towards Ps but who really would possibly like the style of the Xbox avatars??? Its tat horrible cartoonstyle that basically says, we couldn’t be bothered coming up wth anything better. Anyways, i’m over that now, this is an interesting step for Micrsoft! It does seem that te Kinect sales have sparked them into a virtual interactivity mode, which culd be very interesting indeed. They are working on making the avatars more realistic but also make them available through Kinect as a live action chat/instant msg feature. I think this is a cool step forward, but my question would be what other things are going to cme out of it, I mean not that many people would really want to use Avatar Kinect for an extended period of time, it would be a gimic, so what types of game are they thinking about for this???

Let’s have some heavy rain in a war game =)

David Cage famously known as the Quantic Dream founder, has announced that the studio behind Heavy Rain is aiming to go heads on with the war genre. His vision for it is described as a ‘more cinematic, darker representation’. Now I do love Heavy Rain ad the idea of emotional gaming, but war is a very touchy subject. I do appreciate that within the games industry war is glorified a lot, so hopefully Quantic Dream will be able to adventure into the depths of war and have a positive outcome on how payers perceive games. Whether it would work, I don’t know, I’m not a serious war kind of gamer. Although I would say that the problem lies with the definition of games, they are meant to be fun and war isn’t. Are games making war fun? In essence yes but in concept no, they are simply making them enjoyable to the public through a medium, its exactly the same as films!

Irem’s DisasterReport series is Discontinued.

A while ago I read an article about the game Disaster Report 4 being cancelled due to the Tohuku earthquake ad tsunami. Now Irem has decided to discontinue the series altogether. The reasoning for DR4 being cancelled was due to the opening sequence depicting an earthquake hitting a major Japanese city, so the company deemed it inappropriate. This resulted in them stopping all productions of all the previous games in the series.

BRINK!!! YAY!!!

I cannot wait for Brink to come out, seen as it has been delayed now until autumn! But I have found an awesome interview with Neil Alphonso, lead designer, and Richard Ham, creative director, at Splash Damage. The topic of the interview is quite intriguing; it is how the team have balanced the game play in Brink so that it is more likely to appeal to narrative focused gamers and multiplayer focused gamers.

One thing that is very good in terms of the development team’s time management is system that allows tem to change things on a day to day basis. They can upload ‘necvars’, text files of values to the server, which they can then disperse throughout the world. This is good because it updates the game quickly, and it also allows them to implement something that they have learnt from previous titles – sometimes they have been too hardcore and so have put off newer gamers. With this system in place they can track players usage and defensibility, ad if needs be reduce certain weapons etc in patches. Obviously with a game like Brink, that incorporates a team style multiplayer; newer gamers could have difficulty being able to defend against level 50 beasts with epic weapons.

The interview also addresses the idea of abilities, and how the team has worked out a system for these abilities. Obviously with it being multiplayer you choose from a set of characters abilities i.e. medic, engineer etc. And as they want to be able to allow new players to get to grips wit the game as easily as experienced gamers they have sort of simplified things in a way. Ham says, that they have made the levelling system so tat you start with all the basic stuff, for instance a medic will be able to revive immediately. Then Alphonso goes on to say, “it’s built into the system to take player skill into account”, this means really good payers will hit rank one of five within the first match whereas other players will take longer. Now, from my experience this concept will either be amazing or really bad. For me I like the idea of having to level up a tad to gain even the simplest of abilities, but is this because I am experienced. My reasoning for this would-be ‘where is the fun in starting with everything’. Now, the guys at Splash damage do say that as you level up you gain access to more specific abilities, but from my experience multiplayer that start you off with nothing makes you more addicted, because you want a better gun to fuck the other player up who are already kicking your ass with beasty guns. Killzone for example, in the second one, the system was pretty simple you played as a character to level up that character, by doing task to get ribbons to gain access to more abilities. In the 3rd title, they made it so that you could mix and match your abilities, this allowed more freedom, which players like, and also made it that you had to work for what you wanted/needed. Which, in a lot of people’s cases, made the game a hell of a lot more dynamic. Hopefully though Brink will be awesome in this sense, as I am a bit of an abilities freak when it comes to multiplayer.

Capcom’s Daivid Reeves talks to MVC magazine.

I found this a while ago, it is an interview with David Reeves. He highlights a lot of bits and bobs about how his time at the company has been spent but he also does a bit of future gazing. In which he describes how game sales vary through regions. The UK has alwasy been known to battle on, whereas Spain and Italy are doing poorly apparently and places like Dubai and Russia’s sales are sky high. Although I have not foundanything else on the regional and international aspect of sales, I do feel like it is relevant for my future gazing report even though I don’t mention it, it is still nice to know! Possibly a reason as to why mainstream games cost so much – they are well recieved everywhere!

Some advice on how to break into 2011’s video game industry.

I know that this is slightly irrelevant as I will most likely not be working for a games companies in this next year, but it does have some very useful information.

Currently the mainstream video games industry is lead by major titles that cost millions of dollars to produce, this idea often comes with an idea of elitism, which often can put young graduates in despair of how to be good enough for the best companies out there. But, there is hope! As I found in the article, sometimes you need not worry about the elitist games, but instead focus on how to get good at what you want to do. In the article, it states some key points that now I’m reading them, seem very simple indeed. =)

Know your tools – apparently messing about in different forms of software can allow you to understand how and why you want to progress (I’m totally on the right course! =P) The article states that by understanding your software you can make the best out of it. So I suppose I need to start thinking about what it is that I like working in and possibly try out some of the software mentioned in the article.

Take advantage of social media – using Mine craft as an example the article suggests that instead of going all out on advertising just using social media and networking to promote the game is a cheap and effective way to do it. When I think about it, there is literally no reason for students not to be making games in their spare time and testing out the benefits of this form of promotion.

Finally, it’s all about dedication – pretty much speaks for itself.

Nonlinear Storytelling

Nonlinear narrative takes two forms, open world and branching (these are both pretty explanatory). As I have been focusing on this topic as a case study, to see whether I am interested in narrative overall I have found another good source of information on the web. The site focuses on how nonlinear narratives can be achieved for beginners. It outlines some key points that I think will be useful for my future development.

Narrative authors understand dependencies – they use tactics tat leak just enough information to keep the player interested with the story, but not too much to make them feel overloaded all at once. A common technique to achieve this is called layering, in which you add little subtle hints into the story to help the player understand what to do. For instance, the first piece of information may be a quest/problem etc, then the second will be an object and the third will be a hint as to where this item can be found. Within nonlinear stories, this poses a problem because the player could just walk off whilst the narrator is trying to tell them something important. A way to achieve it is to have mini quest that allow freedom, Fallout comes to mind. When you think of a quest in Fallout, you are given the initial briefing, then you go o a destination in which you have the freedom to find as much or as little information as you want. The player recognises key sources of back story like the terminals in Fallout and can choose whether to access them or not.

I also found this image:

They show a writers plans for a nonlinear story structure. The one on the left dictates a nonlinear narrative that has choices that all lead to the key plot points. Whereas the one on the right shows a free choice system that has multiple options, much like the system in Heavy Rain. When I look at these images I feel a lot more intimidated by the one on the right, but in all honesty it is the one that intrigues the most!

A Closer look at Nonlinear Narrative.

I am quite an obsessive when it comes to games with nonlinear elements, in my opinion it is what spices up the mix. On a personal level I’m a halfway person, I enjoy both nonlinear and linear narratives, and often find it hard when faced with a game that is pretty much just sandbox; for some strange reason I just get bored quickly. I suppose I prefer my games to be limited.

As I have been looking into the narrative structures of games recently I came across a post on Game Career Guide, which outlines both the theory and practice of nonlinear narrative. It was very useful as it highlighted a few things that I hadn’t thought about, as well as some ideas on how writers begin to figure out a multiple of alternate endings.

Nonlinear narratives, offer a depth of story that is often lost within linear narratives, but with this it also comes with a hell of a lot of complexities for the writers and designers. Nowadays players are asking for at least some elements of choice and freedom within the games the play. So for companies, they often have to balance the amount of nonlinear element to the timeframe that they have to produce the game; this is because, the more choices, alternate endings etc that you put into a storyline, this increases the amount of programming, designing and all that jazz, that will be needed. This often leads to developers abandoning full nonlinear narratives and instead choosing to incorporate nonlinear elements into a main linear story. Which, in today’s society, gamers need games to offer choice, otherwise, they will get bored quickly. I think this links to a post I did recently about the level design in Batman: Arkham Asylum.

LINK.

I think the idea of nonlinear narrative is so effective because it allows players to gain a more meaningful experience from a game, the choices they make have actual consequences. When you think about it, linear narrative offer less of an interactive engagement from the player because they don’t have to think about anything, they could jut run around, following visual cues from the environment and shoot some enemies without really knowing what the heel is going on! Now in some cases, this has been used very effectively – Killzone, your in the middle of a fucking war, so running around not knowing what the hell is going on really works well, but even within this game on the bigger environment maps sometimes I get lost, when Rico(teammate) runs off and you don’t see where he is, so you have o mess about looking for him in open fire half the time!

In summary, nonlinear is a good thing within games, it depends on what type of game the company is producing and how much time, money etc they have. Linear and nonlinear often run hand in hand within next gen games. So, if I take the path of narrative, I will need to start working out the best ways to introduce nonlinear elements to a mainly linear narrative.

P.S. I’m in a ranting mood! =)

Playing a game 2 years late, that’s my style! =)

Whilst glancing over my reader account the other day, I noticed a recommended site, Game Career Guide. Some of the articles they do are quite useful, as they have a weekly o monthly (I don’t know) game-play analysis and narrative reviews. As I am investigating the narrative side of game concept I think these will be useful to improve my knowledge. So, I found a game-play analysis of Batman: Arkham Asylum, which I recently got out of the library to play over Easter break.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game overall and I’m glad that I have had the chance to play it. It is a very thorough addition to the Batman franchise and it encompasses the very essence of what is The Batman. From reading the article, that is written by Filip Coulianos, a level designer, I found out that the game was produced within less than two years and only had five level designers working on the title (according to the credits).

In terms of he level design aspect of the game, it follows a very linear path tat has a few thrown in aspects of choice, as you n cruise around the buildings that inhabit Arkham Island. The buildings have been designed to serve as ‘chapters’. I think this method of chaptering the storyline works well within this game because you continually try to complete the main mission, defeat the Joker, but you are presented by obstacles along the way. This inevitably makes the player unsure how far or close they are to defeating the Joker, as they have to overcome little tasks.

One thing that will always be memorable in my mind is the gadgets that are used in the story. Each acquisition is perfectly placed within the story. You get used to the idea that as soon as you acquire a new toy, you will most definitely need to use it to proceed any further. The article also highlights this aspect o the level design, and sums up that this level of planning must have been considered within the first parts of pre-production. (Again with the pre-planning in games!) He then goes on to say how the variation within the game play allows players to not become bored even after 8 hours.  This is probably what makes this game so good. You technically are doing repetitive actions but they are mixed up so you feel like everything is new.

Fan Funding, Does It Work?

Fan funding is a way for companies to get money to put into games they are developing. They will advertise the game and then ask for fans to put towards the development of it, this can be done in a number of ways. For instance, in Japan’s big cities you can find several shops and bars turned into themed environments from a games concept. This no doubt costs money but they also gain money as fans see it as a way to become more immersed within the concept and story of a game. Instead of just playing a situation in a bar, you can physically go to the bar and participate in certain activities. I suppose it is similar to people wanting to go to Harry Potter World in Disneyland to have a pint of Butter beer? Time and time again this way of funding video games has been proven successful.

Zero Point Software, a Danish studio has attempted to use this method of crowd-sourcing to fund the whole development of the game Interstellar Marines; this means they cut out the need for traditional publishers. Interstellar Marines is a AAA Indie first person shooter trilogy, that the company has managed to raise $125,000 for. On Edge online, Kenneth Anderson, producer and lead sound designer states “So it was time to make a new strategy. We came up with this crazy idea that our community should be able to pre-order the game years before it was finished.”. This choice has proven very effective, not only with the amount of money they have raised already but also the idea that the studio does not have to work under publishers constraints.

I think the general idea of fan based funding is overall very good for the future of games. I do also see some problems with it, in terms of if it was to be used more frequently and in more mainstream games. First of all, I love how this idea is all about the fans. It is like the company has got a team of willing developers to be part of something thy love doing, just because they love doing it as a career. I lot of the focus within mainstream games is the profit, its all about money; whereas fan funding probably doesn’t make the company a massive profit. Another aspect that I like is the fat that because the company only has one time constraint – making sure the fans don’t get pissed off by waiting too long – they can make the game be of a nearly perfect standard. They could take a few extra months to iron out any problems, so that whet e game is released, the gamers will be more than pleased. There is nothing more irritating than bugged games that probably could have been fixed with an extra bit of time. On the other hand, the idea that a game could have a limitless time period for development could be a bad thing. Games relish on new technological advances, so what if the game just kept on going and going, getting better with each year that passed? I think theidea of planning for the future hasn’t yet quite sunk in within my mind. For, instance the other day, I read a quote from Miyamoto that said they began work on the 3DS years ago! How do games plan for new technological advances? And how do they maintain a high level, whilst doing so?

El Shaddai, an odd way to market a game.

This post follows on from one I recently did about fan funding. In that pot I mention a themed cafe in Japan, El Shaddai is an example of one of these cafe’s.

El Shaddai: Ascension Of The Metatron is a game that is going to be released on the 28th April 2011. As part of the marketing scheme, they have opened a themed cafe in Tokyo, which offers a themed menu, a gallery of concept art, models and other merchandise for sale, as well a demo area. Part of the merchandise sales are going to be donated to charities, including the Earthquake Relief. Alongside this a portion of the games first year sales will be donated as well.

I love the idea of donating to charity; if the company doesn’t need the money, why keep it? On the basis of a themed cafe, I am very intrigued by this. I love the idea that fans can interact with a themed area that offers a themed menu. I think it is one of those tings that I would probably enjoy doing. Instead of conventions, just go to a ‘fictional’ environment from your favourite game. I think the key word here is fictional, by creating an environment in our reality, we are allowing the fans to immerse further into the concept behind the game. I love it!

A Bitter Rivalry

Jack Tretton, SCEA president has described Nintendo’s handhelds as “a great babysitting tool”. There has respectively been some controversy over this statement. I don’t particularly like it when anyone starts slagging off games/ consoles etc. It is probably one of my banes in life, when someone is so devoted to a console. It all depends on what you want out of the experience. The Wii and Nintendo have reached out to a niche in the mark and I’m glad that they have. For example my older sister has always been a halfway gamer, we grew up on the megadrive, then the PS one. So we have both started within a game obsession of life, but as I drifted into first person shooters and more focussed storylines, my sister got lost along the way. As soon as the Wii and the Ds came out, she was suddenly back in the gaming community, albeit a different strand of games, but nonetheless she found her style of games. Personally I would never buy a Wii instead of a PS3 or Xbox, but that is simply down to my personal preference of games.

Who should get the credit for making a game?

I have come across a blog post in which Randy Smith outlines the idea of authorship within the games industry. This is a subject that is often varied within the industry, sometimes certain people within a company are highlighted but most of the time when consumers think about a game they don’t think about the specific people who made it; so is this important?

Credit should be given to the development team but isn’t it ok that people praise the company as a whole as opposed to certain people? Within the blog post, Smith states that there is no real purpose to credits, and when I think about it, the only reason I research further is when I find a component of the game particularly interesting. Otherwise, it doesn’t bother not knowing on a personal level that made the game.  Maybe this is due to the heavy reliance on team cooperation within games. By working in a team you get used to sharing the credit. In reality the only thing that you can get from credit for a game on a personal level is an ego boost. Like Smith says, “there’s a matter of principle”, I suppose the lack of credit comes with the job. I think the gam design brief will really help meto understand this abit further as we will be asked to work in teams of three to produce a game in second life.

WE may have another Wii!

Nintendo has confirmed a Wii successor that will be available to play at E3 and released in 2012. They haven’t released a lot of information but they have stated that it will “offer something new for home game systems”, also saying that the current Wii made it difficult for developers to surprise customers. Is this an admittance of something being wrong with the Wii? I hope they do make something that will incorporate more of a hardcore gamers side instead of just being casual family fun.

Concept Art?

I have recently been narrowing my field down, so that I am focusing on the concept aspect within the video games industry. This led me on to searching far and wide on the interweb to find concept artists that I particularly find interesting or influential as they are currently working with this industry.

My immediate reaction was to look on Concept Art World as it has featured artists every so often. My luck was up as I came across Stacey Diana Clark. She is a senior concept artist working at Monolith Productions Inc.

Not only does concept Art World give example o the artists work, they also give a link to their website/blog. On which you can see her progress through professional and personal work. I find it interesting how frequently she pots up a life drawing, mainly quick 15 minutes ones but nevertheless, it is helping her maintain a level of understanding of the body. If I want to advance into the visual side of concept I will need to start drawing, drawing, drawing! And life drawing seems to be the way that most creative’s I’m coming across use.

Link to Stacey Diana Clark’s Blog

Is it bad if this reminds of something else?

I have just come across an awesome illustrator. Christopher Rahn is currently working as a professional Illustrator, working for various clients. He tends to work in oil on masonite, and you can tell as you look at his work. It has a very natural feel to it. Often I find that digital art tends to be focused on bold, luminous/bright colours, ad in a way this puts me off the style of that concept art. I find it difficult to work in that ‘in your face’, ultra shiny style. So, artists like Chris Rahn are a great source of inspiration.

Link to his Gallery : RahnArt

Rahn’s style, as you can see, has a surreal underlying theme that runs under the main fantasy theme. I think this may be due to the materials he uses, then again I have seen digital artists achieve this style!

Anyways, this illustrator is absolutely amazing but the reason I was drawn to his work in the first place is because I came across this image:

As soon as I saw this painting, I immediately thought it was a Ferali from Brent Weeks, Night Angel Trilogy, but then I saw the Wizards of the Coast in the bottom right. =( I must say it is the perfect envisionment of what I imagined in my head as I read about the Ferali tearing across the battlefield; but the question that this poses in my mind is whether it is a good thing to have your work link to something from a different media. Whether Chris Rahn had previously known of the existence and features of a Ferali before he came up wit this concept, I will probably never know. I would however predict that it is a healthy source of inspiration to take knowledge of the descriptions in whichever literature inspire us as creative’s.

Juliana Santacruz Herrera: Decorative Potholes

I know this isn’t exactly related to any form of work that I would like to aspire towards but I do find it interesting nevertheless.

Juliana Santacruz Herrera has brought a bit of colour to the streets of Paris with her Decorative Pothole project. It showcases braided pieces of colourful fabric, that are playfully placed in the potholes and cracks that line the usually grey city. They bring an unusual palette into Paris, sort of like graffiti but in a more polite manner.

I think the reason I was so drawn to this piece of work is the idea of alternate realities. What Herrera is doing with this piece of art is making the city of Paris have a different aura to the one that its citizens are use to. When I first saw the image above, I immediately started thinking of a why a crack within the earth this colourful would appear.  A lot of old movies come to mind, back in the day when CG wasn’t mainstream, like Wishmaster for example.  Also, Portal’s main game-play aspect jumps to mind.

Anyway the idea of making the citizen think in a different way to the way they used to is a well used theme; not only within Fine Art as I would describe this piece but also within newer games. If, for example, we were to place this idea within a game world; the idea that an AI was to trot out of their fictional apartment and begin their usual set routines. If they were to find an unusual object or impartial difference in these given tasks, whether it is the environment or the other characters, then this will inevitably change the outcome of the Ai’s actions, thus creating a base of narration.

I think I possibly need to further my knowledge into narration techniques within any form of fiction, so that I can gain a better understanding of what, and why certain things happen within storylines.

Oppenhiem Architecture + Design

As I have been cruising the wonders of stumble, I found an article on designboom about Oppenhiem Architecture and Design. The article showcases a new concept of ‘desert lodges’.

Visually, you ca probably see why this article caught my eye. In terms of a future concept this is AWESOME! Taking inspiration from under ground living and the idea of nature, this design is beautifully constructed. The company states it wants a direct connection between man and nature, the use of geometric shape cut out of the faults within the mountains surface is a perfect way to show this.

In terms of the concept, it is one hell of an idea; very inspirational.

Web page: http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/14287/oppenheim-architecture-design-desert-lodges.html

Violence Within Media

After looking into some research for my Critical and Contextual Studies Article on the subject of games within narrative, I found an interesting quote; “The relationship between fictional representation and real world acts of voilence, whether supposedly inspired by films, novels or computer games, is a notoriously thorny issue…” (Atkins,B 2003). This highlights the idea that games get a different classification of violence to other forms of media. Atkins goes on to say that there is an inconsistency within the responce that violence receives from the general public, “The ‘realistic’ violence of the opening Normandy landing sequence of the film Saving Private Ryan (1998) was critically appraised: the ‘realism’ of first-person shooting games is often subject to condemnation and potential censorship.”. The comparison between these two is obviously drastic. It is strange that games seem to get such bad credit for showing a sense of realism within them, albeit if it is violent. Why is that games are targeted constantly with this? And is this ever going to change? I was shocked to see that the book I took this quote from was written in 2003, and still games have a reputation of instilling violence in people. Perhaps this is because of the emotions and feelings that are intended from the game or film.

Films like Saving Private Ryan tend to have depressing themes that underlie the general narrative drive of the film; they often want to upset the viewer so that they become connected to the protagonist. So, violence is accepted in this form of media. In games however, people generally see games as a form of entertainment that is meant to be enjoyed, with violence bing seen as a negative part of this because violence shouldn’t be enjoyable. Saying this though, games still follow the same style of narrative that films do, so why should the use of violence be seen differently. If it is the case that people think that gamers enjoy games because thy get to watch peoples head blow apart right infront of their eyes, then maybe they should look at it a different way. Gamers enjoy games because of the gameplay not the violence more often than not; well this is the case with me. Sometimes I do find enjoyment in the violent parts of games but I do not in any way agree with actual violence in real life. I am actually really against it in any form possible. The reason I ‘enjoy’ it within games is because it is often an overexaggerated vision of violence that is usually placed into games for one of two reasons: 1) the lighthearted approach, when you get extreme violence that, in a way, is ‘taking the piss’, is intended to be funny instead of horrific. This style of humour could be compared to films like Disaster movie, Scary movie or any of the other films like this. 2) ‘Realistic’ violence, often shown in games that want to focus around a basic real world event, most likely war but other events can be used. In this case violence is used to show the player the ‘realism’ within the narrative, you can’t have a war without blood or gore. To me this is exactly the same as a film that is based on a war, fictional or not.

In conclusion, the fact that games and violence is a bad combination will probably never be resolved, since Atkins wrote the book, More Than A Game in 2003, nothing has changed. Violence within games seems to be a taboo area because people catergorise videogames as simply games, and games are meant to be a form of entertainment that people enjoy all aspects of. Maybe we have advanced to fast into games that have complex storylines often influenced by the medium of film and reality. Perhaps its a case of introducing consequences into the act of killing in games? Surely seeing a character who you are controlling have the tramatic side effects of war is enough? This is all that you see in films isn’t it? Maybe we need more games that express different emotions, like Limbo for example, the concept of that is quite depressing. This would clearly highlight the difference within games.

Atkins, Barry (2003), More Than A Game,Manchester, Manchester University Press, p21-24

PEGI Age Rating System

The Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) has been a staple of games since 2003, it highlights age ratings for games so that parents can understand what the content of games is like. It basically helps them make informed decisions about buying games for their children. I didn’t previously know this but the system is supported by major companies like Sony, Nintendo etc so they must know how much of an influence it puts on consumers.

This is what makes up the rating’s (taken from the PEGI website)

PEGI 3 –

These games are suitable for everyone. They have some violence in a comical form i.e. bugs bunny style. The characters on screen should not be relate-able to real life characters, they should be totally fantasy. Nothing within the game should scare or frighten the child, whether this is images or sounds. No bad language, no nudity, or any sexual references are allowed within games that are rated PEGI 3.

PEGI 7 –

Similar to the PEGi 3 rating except these games are allowed to have partial nudity but never in a sexual context and some frightening sounds/images.

PEGI 12 –

This is applied to games that show slightly more graphical violence towards a fantasy character and/or non-graphic violence towards human-looking characters, and any animals that can be recognizable. Nudity can be seen in a more graphic nature but bad language must be mild and and never refer to sexual acts.

PEGI 16 –

Applied once the depiction of violence or sexual activity reaches a level where it is expected to look in real life. More extreme bad language, the use of tobacco, drugs and criminal activity is allowed.

PEGI 18 –

This is classified as the adult rating, it depicts a stage where the violence becomes gross violence and/or introduces certain types of violence. Gross violence is the most difficult to define since it can be very subjective in many cases, but in general terms it can be classed as the depictions of violence that would make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion.

I previously looked at the game We Dare and how it has been withdrawn from UK distribution due to the age rating on it. After looking at what actually makes a game a certain rating I have figured out the PEGI were right to give it a rating of 12+ as it does contain sexual references but no actual explicit material and no violence what so ever.  Does this mean that PEGI or Ubisoft are in the wrong? I think it is hard to clarify anyone being wrong as Ubisoft declared that the game was for 20-35 year olds but it didn’t have any content that would make it a higher rating than 12. I think this is due to the characters/avatars within the game, because I didn’t realise that they effected the rating, which with We Dare the characters are very comical, very exaggerated replications of humans. Which is probably where the line between it being a realistic character that people could associate with humans and a fantasy character as PEGI describes above. It is a very narrow line that the game is sat on and it is right between too ratings. I think the right decision has been made in that they have asked for it to not be released in the UK but it does bring up a problem within the PEGI rating system, which probably needs to be looked at in more detail.

An interesting spin on this is a recent advertisement I watched for the game which PEGI asked to be removed by Ubisoft due to it ‘misleading customers’. The advert in itself looked very…raunchy, shall I say, but in terms of its content and likeness to the gameplay trailers it isn’t accurate at all. Maybe Ubisoft were trying to sell on the basis that sex sells! It sounds like this is the case, and Ubisoft have payed dearly because the UK custom would have been a successful profit. By making an advertisement that shows adults spanking each other with a wii remote and thinking that this game having a 12 rating would be acceptable is just stupid!

 

Sources:
EUROGAMER Ubisoft cancels advertisment
PEGI website
EDGE online, Ubisoft pulls We Dare game out of UK

Ubisoft’s We Dare Game

I found a rather interesting article this morning on Edge online (I am officially addicted to this website). It was about a game called We Dare, sounds intriguing doesn’t it? The article was based on the withdrawal of Ubisoft’s We Dare game in the UK, when it was set to be released tomorrow. This conclusion was released because tabloids were complaining about the content of the game and its 12+ rating. So I looked into the game a bit more because I have never heard of it…It is a very strange game, basically you play with friends through tasks that follow the theme of “sexy, quirky, party game”- found on Ubisoft’s website. In terms of a game I find it really weird, like why would you want to sit and find out if you are a good love match for you friends? The content sort of reminds me Japanese based love games, for instance there is an anime and manga called Vampire Knight, which follows the romantic genre perfectly; this was then taken into a video game that followed the love stories of the characters in the manga. In a weird way this is more acceptable, in my opinion, than the We Dare game, mainly because the main target audience for this type of game is women so if you are playing with a group of female friends, who are heterosexual why would you want to find out if you were a compatible lover? I understand the laid back joke aspect of it but this isn’t a game you would want to play with you mother or sister, actually any sibling… In terms of the companies side of things, Ubisoft have also withdrawn release from the USA, so maybe they think that other cultures will have a bigger/better response from the game. It is interesting to see how much culture can effect a games target audience. In the UK we think it is unacceptable to have a sex based game that has a 12+ rating but in Japan there are millions of love based games, like the Vampire Knight one. Funnily enough the Japanese companies who produce these types of game seem pretty set on keeping them in Japan as well.

A quote from the Ubisoft website depicting the unique controls.: “You can also use your Wii Balance Board for additional game play based on pure mass… are you the lightest one in the group? Perhaps shedding some clothes will even the playing field… it’ll definitely make the party more interesting!”

In terms of Ubisoft I don’t think they have done anything wrong, they have ventured out into a realm of games that has been undiscovered by western gamers and have made a successfully developed game out of it. They state on their website that the games target audience is 20-35 year old men/women, so they have highlighted the fact that the game does have suggestive content that should make it a game for older people. So the problem must lie within the PEGI rating. I shall look at this in another post.

Revision of The Future Of The Video Games Industry

The future of the video games industry

The video games industry has been constantly growing larger ever since it rose out of the ashes of arcade games. Its fan base is no longer refined to the stereotypical ‘teenage boys’, it stems across all ages, both genders and all genres. This is down to massive companies, like Sony, Nintendo and Ubisoft, who are fuelling the growing demand for video games. Nintendo and the DS console branched out to female gamers that would otherwise be uninterested in typical blood, gore, and guns seen in first person shooter’s (FPS), by producing games about cooking, weight loss and fitness, and murder mysteries.  The growth and expansion of the gaming industry is being led by these big brands but a lot of independent games are also becoming well known, even so they are still shunned out by games with a bigger amount of funding. Are the big brands dominating the market?

 

 

Money –

Mark Cerny a veteran within the industry believes that the problem currently lies with ’50 million dollar games’. On edge online he asks whether mainstream games need to have large amounts of money spent on them. Is the funding what makes them such a good game? Using money does bring good graphics and other aesthetical value to the game but Cerny asks whether we need this, stating that narrative can be told without all the shiny stuff on top. After all this is where games originated from, back in arcade games you didn’t have the photo-realistic graphics but they were still amazing games. The point Cerny puts across is a valid one in the current state of the industry and how it should progress, he states, “There is no intrinsic value to a fifty million dollar game.” (Cerny, M Feb 2011).

 

 

Jamil Moledina, the director of GDC, gives an opposition to Cerny’s view; she describes the current state of the industry as a ‘very exciting time’ due to the growth that is taking place. This relies heavily on the recognition within the big companies of casual and family-orientated content that is being reflected within the $60 packaged games and $10 downloads. In comparison with Cerny, Moledina explains that these advancements are creating “a perfect storm of factors poised to really expand the game industry” (Moledina, Jamil, 2008). The factors that she is referring to are based on the target audience, so like Cerny, Moledina believes that the growth in the future will be decided by the gamers. Whether it is with the mainstream high-class games or lower budget games.

 

 

Nicholas Lovell suggests another view; he thinks that “only the very biggest titles will survive” (Lovell, 2010), using examples such as Red Dead Redemption, Farmville etc to portray how games are infiltrating peoples time and money by comparing them to movies and TV shows. Lovell suggests that few companies can afford $200 million dollars bets and compares the idea of a blockbuster game that massive companies are making against the lower budget companies that need a portfolio of games just as a defence against them. This shows a massive divide in the industry now that these experts are trying to solve.

 

Summary –

The general ethos from the suggestion is that the target audience will decide the future of video games. The industry relies heavily on people to buy the games at $60 a go, but that is because the games they are producing are costing $200 million dollars and this is because as an audience gamers are demanding high quality, cutting edge design. Saying this it seems like the future of the industry is going to be within cutting edge technology, which will mean game prices will go up and up until it reaches breaking point; this is what Cerny believes. Another factor within this is how the games industry seems to be being driven by consumers, like Nintendo supplying games for casual female gamers, a lot of companies are developing games that are outside of the more generic form/style of game.

 

Bibliography –

Lovell, N (2010), The Future of The Games Industry?, GamesBrief [online], http://www.gamesbrief.com/2010/10/the-future-of-the-games-industry-its-in-three-parts/ (Accessed 16 February 2011)

Moledina, J (2008), Future Of the Video Game Industry Taking Shape At GDC, news.cnet.com [online], http://news.cnet.com/8301-13772_3-9873852-52.html (Accessed 16 February 2011)

Cerny, M (2011), The end of 50 million dollar games, Edge [online], http://www.next-gen.biz/features/dice-the-end-of-50-million-dollar-games?page=0%2C1 (Accessed 16 February 2011)

 

The future of the games industry.

The future of the games industry.

Money –

Mark Cerny believes that the problem with the current industry lies with ’50 million dollar games’. On edge online he asks “Are these games stories that you couldn’t tell without fifty million dollars? By and large all we have done is competed to raise the visual bar and been rewarded for it, and costs will rise until these economics no longer make sense… There is no intrinsic value to a fifty million dollar game.” (Cerny, M Feb 2011) Whereas, Jamil Moledina, the director of GDC says “It’s a very exciting time in the game industry, in that we have this growing recognition of the important of casual and family-oriented content, you’re seeing it in the $60 packaged (games) and in the $10 downloads. It’s a perfect storm of factors poised to really expand the game industry.” (Moledina, Jamil, 2008) These are both very different points of view and suggest opposite sides to the gaming industry. the difference in dates would suggest that the surge of family-orientated games was pushed through in 2008 onwards but Cerny suggests that this buzz of ‘$60’ games needs to end.

Another view is suggested by Nicholas Lovell. He states ” Modern Warfare 2 cost $50 million to make. It costs a further $150 million to manufacture, distribute and market at launch. Very few companies can afford to take $2o0 million bets, still less to build the portfolio of games that are the only defence against the hit driven nature of blockbuster games…For the games industry, Red Dead Redemption is the blockbuster movie; Farmville is the soap opera. Games on Facebook, iPhone, PSN, XBLA and the web are drawing user’s time and money. Only the very biggest titles will survive.” (Lovell, 2010) This suggests that games need to have a big budget to survive in the future, maybe this is because of the rising demand/expectation gamers have from the industry. Lovell back this idea up by saying, game companies that aren’t good at making blockbusters and don’t have the financial strength to make half a dozen games a year, they will be squeezed out of the industry. He finishes by saying “The future for game makers is very, very bright. New technologies like Unity make coding easier. Distribution channels like the web, XBLIG, Steam, the App Store and the Android Market mean that it is easier than ever before to publish a game.”(Lovell, 2010).

Cut backs to staff –
At the moment a lot of game companies are cutting back on staff due to a lack of funding, this can be seen in Harmonix. “Rock Band developer Harmonix has let go between 12 and 15 per cent of its 240 staff, according to reports.” (Edge Online, 2011). Also, “Activision has responded aggressively to its poor financial results, closing down its Guitar Hero business unit, cancelling DJ Hero and True Crime: Hong Kong, and announcing plans to trim its workforce by 7 per cent, or some 500 staff.” (EDGE online, 2011) For the future this means that the industry is going to become even more competitive than it already is, causing trouble for newcomers.

Summary –

All of this information suggests that the future of the gaming industry is going to be a tough one. There will be less jobs available, causing a lot more competition. There are mixed reviews about the idea of ’50 million dollar games’. This suggests that it could go either way but also shows a difference in the market. Some people seem to like the idea of games costing so much to make and the gamers seem to demand this more; this amount of money is often being spent on the technology and skills that are being put into the game, which gives it the quality that people want. On the other hand some people think that there is no need to spend these enormous amounts on one game, and say that this is pushing smaller companies out of business because they cannot keep up.

Bibliography –

Brown, N (2011),Activision “Closes 7 Studios”, Edge [online], http://www.next-gen.biz/news/activision-%E2%80%9Ccloses-7-studios%E2%80%9D (Accessed 16 February 2011)

Lovell, N (2010), The Future of The Games Industry?, GamesBrief [online], http://www.gamesbrief.com/2010/10/the-future-of-the-games-industry-its-in-three-parts/ (Accessed 16 February 2011)

Moledina, J (2008), Future Of the Video Game Industry Taking Shape At GDC, news.cnet.com [online], http://news.cnet.com/8301-13772_3-9873852-52.html (Accessed 16 February 2011)

Cerny, M (2011), The end of 50 million dollar games, Edge [online], http://www.next-gen.biz/features/dice-the-end-of-50-million-dollar-games?page=0%2C1 (Accessed 16 February 2011)

Edge Magazine, you are very useful indeed!

In an article about the players usability of video games, I found a funny little section that had opinions from designers on those annoying aspects of games. The best part of this was the Unskippable Cut scenes section. John Hopson, the Bungie user research lead said that the problem with skipping cut scenes was that the player would miss important narrative information, to challenge this in previous games Bungie have allowed players to skip cut scenes but have made the lost/skipped information available within the game itself. This is interesting as it would cause a few problems to the development team, but it shows how much user research means. At the beginning of the article Hopson actually said that he thought that a developer had failed its fans if they lost interest whilst playing the game, which I have to agree with. It’s not fun playing an uninteresting game. Jason Avent, Black Rock Studios also commented saying that “stories should be relayed to you as you play, like in Half-Life 2 or Bioshock”, this is an interesting comparison, but at the end of the day it falls down to opinion, some people like cut scenes, some don’t. In a way it depends what type of gamers you are, when I played Bioshock I can honestly say that half the time I had no idea what the hell was going on, because I was more worried about what demented creature was going to pop round the corner than what…(I forgot his name, bad times) anyways whoever he was, he was rambling through the radio at me about something!

Edge, Interview with Alvin Nelson.

Just found a rather interesting interview in Edge magazine, it was about Alvin Nelson from Obsidian and how they worked on the Dungeon Siege game. It was really useful to know that as a company who works on a lot of other developers games, like Bethesda, Bioware and now Gas Powered Games, they took the previous games from each series into account and in a way used they as a tool to base the new game on. Nelson said that they used previous games from the developer to get into character, but also stated that they didn’t want to directly copy the work. I find this quite obvious in a way but I like the fact that they have the freedom to tweak/alter aspects in the new game. He also stated that the camera is a vital part of the design of the environment and character, due to ‘things not looking right from certain angles’. This means that the game world is built around the camera that is the players screen, it means that as part of a development team you would need to consider how everything will look to the player. A good example of this from the interview was when Nelson said that they had to take out certain aspects from the original game due to the compatibility with the target audience, they had both hardcore original PC gamers and casual console gamers needs to fill. This meant that console gamers would be used to a camera that was further away from the protagonist whereas PC gamers where used to directly over the shoulder camera angles. This meant that some objects like secret rooms/doors had to be taken out because it wouldn’t be as well signposted in both camera angles.

Splash Damage.

Splash Damage was formed in 2001, by the creators of high profile free mods. They signed a long-term contract with Bethesda Softworks in 2008 and now in 2011 Brink will be released. I found the development videos for Brink which I found really useful in terms of how the team worked together to create Brink.I especially like how the sound team went out to the Nevada desert to record actual gun sounds, from 45 different types of gun, just so they could find the perfect fit.

 

C.I. Task 2 – Presenting Yourself.

1.
Clarity-5/10 she gives examples when she speaks but shedoesn’t give enough information as to why i.e. why is locking your elbow ‘the wrong position’?
Drama-0/10 she seems enthusiastic but not dramatic
Design-3/10 i feel a tad on the weird side being in a dark room with shutters in – it isn’t the best background. Plus she is very stiff in her standing position.
Substance-3/10 well rehearsed, looks confident
Flow- 5/10 not very interesting or engaging

2.
Clarity-6/10 very clear but speaks to fast, leaving no time for the audience to think.
Drama-9/10 she is very confident and gives a good vibe across, very over dramatic with her hands
Design-2/10 over does it abit
Substance-4/10 good backing to her points, funny
Flow-4/10 looks like she is so in depth with her topic, sort of like she is obsessed with it

3.
VIDEO HAS BEEN REMOVED

Dimitar Tzvetanov

I used the work of Dimitar Tzvetanov for my city scape piece of visual language, but I also would like to put him into the creative industries category due to his involvement at Haemimont Games. He works as the lead animator in the company that has 50 employees making it the largest video game developer in Bulgaria. It concentrates on medieval and ancient history strategy games. Tzvetanov involvement in the animation is placed on his website here: http://www.artbychrom.com/#/content/gameart/. In terms of what I am currently interested in, Tzvetanov (alongside Jesca Marisa) is one of the current examples of professionals who mix their media. Tzvetanov works with concept art, games animation and digital painting, which are the three areas I am interested in alongside scriptwriting. It is nice to know people can vary their work in the industry.

Jesca Marisa

Jesca Marisa is an illustrator who I came across in ImagineFX. I really like the style of her work which is sort of why this is an aesthetics based reference but also she is somewhat of an inspiration. I find myself at university on an extremely diverse course and I have no idea which way I want to go! Jesca sees to have finally found her way, but she is quite open about her past decisions, she began by studying animation and scriptwriting for 4 years because she was interested in storytelling, moved on to writing comics and finally has settled into illustration. It’s nice to know working professionals had a confusing start to their career, as I am also generally interested in storytelling, but have no idea whether I want to do scriptwriting, concept art or animation. Anyways back to the art. Marisa has a lovely portfolio online: LINK The reason I admire her work so much is because is it versatile, she has trained herself in areas of the media that she herself enjoys and produces wonderful pieces in each area.

Funcom VS Blizzard

Funcom Montreal studio has tried once before to combat Blizzard’s leading MMO World of Warcraft when they released Conan: Age of Empires. I read an article in Games TM that had Miguel Carron, CEO, discussing how they believed the Blizzard was their only competition in the market. This is an interesting topic due to the fact that Funcom has around five competitors that all are around the same level as they are, excluding WOW of course. I like how they don’t seem phased by the challenge that they have taken on, Miguel compared it to how Google competed with Microsoft, saying that Microsoft was such a big company that it didn’t see the threat until it was too late. If this is the case with Blizzard, Funcom may actually overtake they massively addictive MMO. “Killing Warcraft is a fools errand”, if this is the case then what is it that makes WOW so amazing to its players? What makes them want to play it so much, if their are games out there that have better graphics and a more gripping storyline? This sort of links to our current Critical studies lesson in which we are looking at addictiveness to games. What I admire most about this whole story is that Funcom are inventing new and exciting ways to win back the MMO audience, at the same time they aren’t selling out to their fans though. They are sticking to their quality and often random storyline, I suppose their new game, The Secret Garden, is evidence of this. Miguel said that you don’t have any of those annoying ‘go and kill the rats’ missions.

L.A. Noire By Rockstar Games & Team Bondi

Team Bondi & Rockstar Games have come together to produce an awe-inspiring crime thriller set to come out in spring 2011.  A video detailing their motion capture and motion scan  technology, narrated by members of the cast and crew, including Brendan Mcnamara (writer/director), is shown alongside the first trailer on the website. The video goes into detail about how effective motion scanning is for the game. They used it to not only animate characters but to literally take real people into a virtual setting. The cast they used depict everything that their subsequent characters behavior, appearance and even voice is made up of. This makes for an amazing reality to the game world, which they have utilised. The game supposedly has features which allow the protagonist to make choices about the other characters. With the crime theme of the game, this means the player will be able to decide whether the suspect, witness etc is lying or telling the truth. This is a really interesting step to how games are evolving currently, especially because the technology is allowing LA Noire to stand out with RP features that according to the video are extremely accurate. Whether this function works out as an advantage will only be revealed with the release of the game and its demos. It seems like the idea could have stemmed from Heavy Rain, an acclaimed PS3 exclusive, in which the player interacted by performing highlighted actions. But LA Noire has developed this into an actual free roam title I believe. It will be interesting to see the results.

Another fact I found out recently about this production was that Team Bondi had this as a pet project for 10 years, and Rockstar’s main involvement was using their experts in various fields i.e. car handling, physics to help out with problematic ares of the development.

Another little gem from Develop.

So there is this buzz about Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception’s teaser trailer that has literally flooded the PS Store’s homepage. I’m not complaining, who wouldn’t want to stare at the lovely Nathan Drake every time they take a browse to see what demos are up for download? Anyways, on the subject of Uncharted, I found the second part of develop magazine’s article on The Art Of Uncharted. This section was on the special effects used in the action sequences, so basically the stuff that went bang! Although the article was interesting as it was tutorial based, and had Naughty Dog’s Mike Hatfield talking about why, how and what they wanted to achieve within the game, it was also informative. Once you have played any of the previous Uncharted games you understand just how important the cinematic elements incorporate into your gaming experience. Differences in the gameplay of the first and second game were noticeable when playing and Hatfield explains, for Uncharted 2 they brought in the Havok physics engine instead of using the one from the previous game that limited them to how much they could do and how many different features it had. This adjustment made it possible for the team to create things like a light fitting that swings around in real time and even reacts to the player or gun-fire ect. When playing the game you don’t realise that a simple thing like this has such an impact on how realistic the game seems to be, and how connected you get to it. I don’t know about you but I get fascinated when you walk into a plain cardboard box and it goes flying half way across the room as if you just used the force in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed! Or GTA for example, when you walk into a car and it slides across the road, I hate to tell you this but Nico does not have the physical strength to move a car with his knee! Now, these little glitches are cute and fascinating at times but for the sake of realistic games it is a really bad problem unless you use it to your advantage like Uncharted. Using Havok to create convincing particle effects, they made the plant pots in the Nepal section interactive, so when you walk into them, shoot them, or whatever you could possibly want to do with a plant pot, they react to your actions. It is a really nice effect due to the context of the scene which is Nathan and Chloe being chased down by a Hind Attack Helicopter. The chaotic nature of the plant pots being torn to pieces by the helicopter’s machine gun, really adds to a wonderful experience.

 

Mike Hatfield does talk about alot of other parts of the creation of action sequences used in Uncharted 2 but I realise that I have been rambling for a while now, so I will scan in the other page and let you view it at your own perusal.

Develop magazine #108 2nd half of Uncharted 2 article with Mike Hatfield:

Oddworld is back!

Just found a rather interesting article in Develop magazine, it is a piece of news about how UK indie team Just Add Water is at work on a series of new adventures set in Oddworld. Stewart Gilray, MD of Jaw’s Leeds studio, has leaked that tech both forthcoming and established will be utilsed in the production of the new titles in the series. This will surely give the classically designed environment a few twist and turns, although I’m sure for the better. I imagine it was a strange venture for the team at Oddworld Inhabitants to let an idea that they founded be sent into the hands of a different development company. But from the statement made by Gilray it seems that they are working very closely together. The screen-shots from Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath does make it look amazing. Plus this statement that I found on Jaw’s website – “JAW has worked closely with Oddworld founders Lorne Lanning and Sherry McKenna to ensure the remake is faithful to the original moolah-chasing epic, while offering a raft of enhancements, including: stunning 720p visuals; much more detail in the characters; normal mapping and self-shadowing; re-mastered dialogue, support for PlayStation®Move; and additional bonus material still to be revealed.” Pretty much sums up what the new tech is going to be. I think that developing and re-envisioning something as renowned as Oddworld is truly amazing, never-mind the incorporation of PS Move controllers.

Thought Of You by Ryan Woodward

Thought of you by Ryan Woodward is an interesting look at how art mediums can come together to produce an outstanding animation. Ryan Woodward was interested in the figurative works of 2d animation, EFX animation, and contemporary dance and used all three to make an animation with a theme of the complexities of intimate relationships. It is a really stunning animation, the sketchy lines of the two characters look beautiful, which emphasizes the beauty of the medium of dance. The main reason I chose to look at this for creative industries is because it is a perfect example of how different mediums can come together to produce a stunning animation. I have always appreciated other mediums in art to support my work which is one of the reason I am on this course, and I think that this animation proves that I don’t need to narrow my vision to much into the medium. As long as the work I produce fits in with the digital arts, my research/inspiration could come from anywhere.

Here is some behind the scenes footage I found on Thought Of You:

And the website for it: http://conteanimated.com/

Creative Industries Review – Assassin’s Creed 2 Brotherhood

Written in the style of popular game review website, Gametrailers.

 

Assassin’s Creed 2 Brotherhood

The £40 Expansion Pack?

The Assassin’s Creed series has, over the past few years, become the pinnacle of the action adventure genre. With intriguing story lines and a previously unheard of playing system, every gamer is always on alert when a new installment is due. However, many have criticized this game for being too similar to it’s predecessor, calling it a glorified expansion pack. Is this the case?

Gameplay – Essentially the series has been unchanged since it’s initial release. This wasn’t so much of an issue when AC2 was released, polishing the issues which needed refining from the original. This release couldn’t work on the same basis; it needed to do something special and as far as I can see it hasn’t broken any boundaries. New features that were added in the second game, such as purchasing shops have been expanded alongside the addition of the Assassins Guild in which you can recruit enemies of the state to your cause is enough to add initial intrigue to a game which is very much the same engine wise. Combat is as comfortable for the main protagonist as on the previous game with the flaw of enemy-to-enemy switching being ironed out with a new system of chain moves. The game once again used the free-running travel mode from the previous games with only minor differences and in all fairness, no changes were really necessary. The main problem this system faces is the automatic assumptions the character makes for you. Frustration almost always ensues, but there aren’t many ways around this. Most people’s mind’s don’t work in the same way as a master assassin! The AI in the game often faces issues when they are taken away from their predefined paths and other than a few occasions, most missions follow the basis of tailing or assassinating an enemy. Improvements have been made with the producers borrowing from other successful franchises such as Tomb Raider with the idea of a set path for which the assassin must follow. Some would criticize this, however without sacrificing on the general city designs, there is no way to ensure the assassin is in the right place at the right time.

Score: 8.7

Story – The initial game was ground-breaking in story line. Not many other games can say they are so well researched, containing real life characters and places, as well as involving a compellingly wrote conspiracy theory which is unrivaled in any genre. For many, including myself, this is the series main selling point and possibly the only thing which makes you feel the game was worth producing. Although some characters appear out of the blue with little background story and in some cases are poorly written and predictable, they are most certainly involving and with the world at steak, there is no justification not to be interested in the cause. Despite these compliments, the game did seem to suffer from sticking with the main protagonist, with nothing new to really bring to the table with certain characters.

Score: 9.2

Presentation & Design – Living in the footsteps of, what in it’s day was to date the best produced living and breathing cities ever made, this game was destined to be something special. However, with an aging engine there was no improvement to general textures and it still suffers from the same draw-in problems as other games in the same genre. The city itself still manages to impress, being as close to historical accurate both placement and development-wise that you would struggle to find anything which even comes close in any genre to recreating a city, past and present. Clothing and buildings are once again designed brilliantly despite Ubisoft making few improvements from the previous installment. Some textures are laughable for 2010 and people most certainly struggle to appear ‘real’ given improvements made in the genre as a whole. Praise is necessary for the flow between cut scene and game however, although this only masks the graphical inabilities of the engine.

Score: 8.1

Overall, the game certainly reignites the passion which most gamers appreciate the series for, but it certainly feels like a considerably large expansion pack with added in game additions used to pad it out into a full release. Essentially,  I don’t see this as a problem, considering the scale of the game and the poorly received DLC of the 2nd game. To keep the series fresh the developers need to come up with something special to keep the franchise from falling off it’s pedestal in the genre. The story is certainly interesting enough to keep you wanting to play and the amount of side quests tagged on mean you will not put this game down for some time. In some senses, this game can come across as an expansion pack, but given the playing time, it is much more than this.

Score: 8.7