Thursday, December 21, 2006

It's Christmas Time...

Well I was expecting some work to be posted up today but discovered to my pleasant surprise that there wasn't any! So I am going to post about my Christmas Holidays so far.
I have been ice skating at the Tower of London and would highly recommend it. I'm rubbish at ice skating but thanks to nice shiny new skates and a nice ice surface I managed to survive without falling over. I also went shopping in Covent Garden and Tim bought me an awesome little ink stamp of an owl. Expect to see that randomly appearing in my sketch book.
Went to Wetherspoons where we were all disappointed by the price of a round but discovered Bailey's cups. Little shot glasses made out of chocolate with Bailey's inside. Mmmmmm

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Oblivion is beginning to annoy me. It does not stick to its own rules, an idea I read about in a game book, probably Trigger Happy. If I have a fireball spell and I find a camp fire that is not alight, it should not be unreasonable for me to set the bloody thing alight.

Who cares that the game has endlessly accurate physics of throwing a dead rat over a cliff, I want to set things on fire!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Oh god I want to buy so many things right now it's insane. I bought myself a copy of Psychonauts the other day, mostly due to the interview about it. I also really really want a copy of Okami, women gamers gave it an absolutely rave review and it had looked good anyway. What with all this and Christmas shopping still to finish I think my bank account is soon going to start crying.


Week 11: Gameplay

I don't think gameplay is a set of solid rules, I think it's the interaction between different elements of a game like controls, plot and immediate goals. The only thing that doesn't really come into it is graphics and art style, in theory you could play a game with only stickmen and the gameplay would be the same. That's not to say that the gaming experience as a whole would be the same, just the gameplay.

The article referring to different levels of gameplay was really interesting, and it applies to many different games I've played. In final fantasy games there is the world map level of play where you can see your location in relation to towns, fields and whatever else. There are then two levels within this, towns and encounters. During encounters, the control system changes from one of navigation to one of battle. In towns, the navigation controls tend to be more restrictive, but the options of talking to people and accepting quests is opened up.

Similarly in Super Mario Brothers 3 there are two levels of gameplay, the map screen and the levels themselves. Although limiting, the map area does require interaction. The player can choose which levels to complete and tactically decide where to go depending on where the Hammer Brothers or the Coin Ship or whatever else is.
Levels of gameplay can serve to add depth to a game and to prevent the game seeming repetitive.

The Experimental Gameplay Workshop was also really cool. I think it's fantastic that new and exciting methods of play are being recognised for their merits, and I think that they are the games which will help move the industry forward. I so want to play Katamari Damacy, but the last I heard we only had the second game over here, which apparently has a slightly different feel to it. Experimental gameplay seems to be about the same kind of thinking they taught us in art college - think away from what you have, and then come back again. Figure out some crazy, non related thing and then relate it back to how you can structure your game.

I don't think gameplay can be entirely designed into a game as different factors affect it. If you had the gameplay as you wanted it but suddenly had to change an element of the control system because it was causing problems then the gameplay would inevitably be affected. I think the gameplay element would be similar to a final piece of an art project - you would have an idea of what you wanted it to be like but different factors you explored along the way would eventually shape it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Why do they have to do this damn Blogger Beta thing to me? It's enough trying to remember eleventy billion passwords across the internet without having to create a google account just so I can forget another one!

My boyfriend Tim is currently signing up for Blogger. I dread to think what he's going to do with his account. The world will probably be treated to blueprints, videos, photos and crime scene evidence of every new explosive device he creates. To my knowledge, he has so far single handedly built out of readily available household material:
  • A gas powered tennis ball launcher which can shoot over a house.

  • A bicycle pump powered water cannon backpack which managed to shoot a jam jar higher than the height of his house when the pressure became too much.

  • a K'nex crossbow which fires bits of K'nex at people.

  • A 3 wheeled go kart.

  • A secret underground lair which was basically a big hole underground with a shed constructed inside it once it was finished, complete with Batman style ramp to the surface world.

  • A wooden crossbow.

  • A sword. As in like proper metal, cut you up sword.

Not to mention various adventures with explosives. Needless to say, I will feel safe with him when the Zombie Apocalypse arrives.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Week 10: Story and Character

A few of the articles for this week's task really made me annoyed. The design and purpose for the characters in Ninety Nine Nights seemed really thought out and meaningful and then they hit you with this: '
When I was Inphyy, I liked her, she's cute and has a nice body. She has good cleavage, I threw that in for the player's sake.' You have got to be kidding me! You went to all this trouble to design a deep, well rounded, interesting woman and then decided that you know what, she still needs big tits. Because who's going to buy it if it doesn't have big tits in it?! This idea of the player is also slightly strange. It should say the male player. Or the player who is attracted to breasts. To be honest a character with boobs spilling out of her armour does not appeal to me whatsoever. It says lazy design and lack of practicality.

Anyway. I will stop being hrr arrgh feminist now and return to the task in hand. What characters do I respond to? This is an incredibly broad question so I'm going to try to brea
k it down a bit.

In live action filming, the way a character looks is predetermined by the actor. They can be changed through makeup and costume but each actor will bring certain preconceived ideas with them to a character.
By constrast
in animation and games the character's whole appearance needs to be designed and there is no base to work from. At the moment I think animation deals with this more enthusiastically than games do. Animation seeks to create exaggerated characters and worlds with unrealisitic proportions. Just look at Corpse Bride, The Incredibles or anime in general for strange proportions. Games seem to be stuck in a rut of trying to emulate reality when they have far more freedom than they give themselves credit for. Why have photorealistic humans or foliage? If we want that we can just go outside. Some games do well at breaking away from this. Timesplitters, Sam n Max and Windwaker managed to use chariacatures to great effect without making you feel as if it was outside of the game's reality.
So I respond to characters who look good, who have a certain spark about them. Captain Jack Sparrow with his planned out costume, Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc with their contrasting body shapes and sizes.


I'm going to talk about the podcast by Tim Schafer for a little bit now. I found it a really interesting talk, and the ideas of drawing inspiration from real life and that there can be different fantasies people want to fulfil seemed very important. Basically to summarise the second idea was in regards to playing as Guybrush Threepwood in Monkey Island. Tim said that someone had remarked to him that they enjoyed playing as Guybrush because they always had a witty comeback, something a lot of people struggle with in real life. There is more to games than just being a powerful warrior.
Writing for a character is about making them believable. I read somewhere that you shouldn't have a character who is 100% what you expect them to be. I think it was in Trigger Happy, I can't remember. Basically, if you have a good guy, make him 3/4 good characteristics and 1/4 bad. Like noble, witty, compassionate but ugly. I think this is well illustrated by Bender fro
m Futurama. Bender doesn't care about anybody but himself. He is selfish, lazy, lies and steals but when you get a rare moment of positive emotion from him it means so much more. Like when he actually becomes friends with Fry or when he falls in love.
Character writing I like includes stuff by Pratchett, Shaun of the Dead and Sly Raccoon 3.

Acting can change everything about a character. You learn this when you study different versions of Shakespeare plays put on by different companies. In one version of the Merchant of Venice, Shylock is the evil, vicious Jew who wants nothing but mindless vengeance. In another, he is the poor victim of circumstance who wants only what is due to him. These are the same lines in each case but acted differently. Actors can bring new life to a character. The character of Hades in the Disney film Hercules was changed entirely when James Woods auditioned for the part. Instead of being slow and lumbering, Hades became quick witted and cynical.
An actor who seems to turn up again and again in games I play is James Arnold Taylor. . He played both Tidus and Ratchet and pops up in lots of other cartoons and voiceovers. I think he's a good actor and the cast interviews with him about Final Fantasy X were really interesting, he really knew what he was trying to convey with Tidus.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Week 9: Game Technology

Personally, I don't think that consoles and controllers becoming more aesthetically pleasing is a terrible thing. It can of course be argued as being 'style over substance' but I think it's nice that video games are considering their image and are changing it to reflect their audience.

The PS3 controller is slightly disappointing. It has barely changed despite Sony's ten years of console experience. The only way it seems to be different to a PS2 controller is a single button in the middle. Sony seems to be a rather avid borrower of ideas from other consoles when it comes to design. The XBox 360 controller has at least been tidied up a bit. Smoothed out, rounded and slick looking, it's a nice improvement but nothing shocking. The middle button allows easy menu access, important to a console which prides itself on its online capabilities.
The Wii controller however, seems to be going in a completely new direction. The smooth whiteness is there like the XBox controller, but the remote is basically a rectangle. What are Nintendo doing? The thing is a slightly elongated, sideways NES controller!
But here is the beauty of the thing. When you played NES games, you never forgot what the controls were, because there were only 2 buttons and a D-pad. Nintendo has stripped its controller down to the basic essentials and made it easy to just pick up and use.

Controllers are often a barrier between the user and the game for inexperienced gamers. Watching my mum or my flatmates try to play on a console is amusing but also interesting because they don't understand what the controller can do, they don't intuitively know where the buttons are and how you use them. Instead of being absorbed in the experience, they are sitting there going 'Oh god how do I jump?!'

Let's find a control menu for something. Ah yes, Shadow of the Colossus. That will do:

Left Analog stick: Used for movement.
Right Analog Stick: Moves the camera about freely.
Directional Pad: Use the left and right arrows to change your weapons.
X-button: Summon your horse.
Square-button: Attack button. Use it to slash your sword or fire your arrows.When equipped with your sword, use the square button to charge up for a strongstab (used in combination with R1).
Triangle-button: The jump button. Also used to mount your horse when you are standing next to him. Used to jump out of water as well.
Circle-button: Used to reflect the sunlight off your sword. You can also use Circle to pray at the save alters.
R1-button: Used to grab climbable surfaces, walls, ledges, etc. Hold this and use triangle and left stick to jump/roll when you aren't climbing. You can also use this to dive underwater a short distance.
R2-button: Zooms in.
L1-button: Look about at your surroundings and focus on the colossus (when incombat).
L2-button: Re-positions the camera behind you.
START-button: Pause/Displays your map. The arrow is your current position andthe direction you are facing.--On Agro--Left Analog stick: Used to change his direction.
Triangle-button: Mount/Dismount.
Triangle + R1: Used to fast-mount the horse when you leap from the ground.
X-button: Kick the horse to make him go faster. You can hold it down to keep him at his maximum speed.
Down on L-stick + X: When standing still, you can rear-up and take off atmaximum speed really quick. When moving fast, this will put you back at zero-movement (skid stop and all). Also you can hit X twice from a gallop and downto do an instant 180.
R1 + Up on L-stick: Stand on the horse. From here you can jump off ontosomething else.
R1 + any button + left/right on L-stick: hang off the side of the saddle.
Circle-button: Raises sword when equipped, pets Agro when the hand icon is shown.

I'm not being funny I love this game but there are so many button combinations and different things a button can do depending on the circumstances. I'd nearly completed the game before I found out you could actually pet Agro. This is not pick up and play material and I think that this is the thing games should be trying to be right now.

So basically I think my point after all this is that consoles need to be appealing to more people. Sony and Microsoft have done that with their console designs but Nintendo have gone the extra mile with a controller that will mean eveyone in your family can play, not just the gamers.