Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Elements of Game Design~ part one

Game Design is the art of designing a game, to put it simply. Many responsibilities accompany such a task, and in my opinion, talent plays a big part. A Game Designer needs to be a good artist, writer, have a great imagination and a greater understanding of 'fun'. What the player wants.

Chris Crawford was a game designer in the 1980s and he had a few interesting points about what 'game' and 'play' actually was. He described a game to be an art form even, because:
"Art is something designed to evoke emotion through fantasy. The artist
presents his audience with a set of sensory experiences that
stimulates commonly shared fantasies, and so generates emotions."
 Back in the 1980s, games weren't very visually enhanced. I mean, you had pac man and missile command. The programmers were the ones to decide what things looked like.

However, today things are a little different. You have much more of a visual stimulation, it plays a much bigger roll in games. Compare Space Invaders to Star Wars, The force unleashed for example. Which would you choose if both sat side by side on a shelf? (imagining you'd not played either) When you walk into a game shop what's the first thing that atrracts you to pick up a game. Is it not the pretty pictures on the cover? Do you flip it over to see more pretty pictures on the back? All the time making estimates about how the game plays through it's visual style.

Fable. Man this game looks awesome!
Yes this is all well and said but when it comes to actual content and gameplay within a videogame, i wonder if many things have changed at all. I'll use Pac Man again, where the aim of the game is to collect the dots and avoid the ghosts within a maze-like environment. And now look at Mario, where the aim of the game, again, is to collect and avoid. You have the princess at the end and a few more extras but the principle is very similar. Especially when it comes to shoot 'em ups or FPSs, where the clue is in the title. Fantasy RPGs aswell where you choose a character (more than likely you have elf, human, ork etc) level them up and explore. Stuff like that. My point is, games are very similar to one another whether it be a card game, strategy, children's game, board game or video game. Within their elements the aim is almost allways the same. When it comes to video game, I think the major factor that seperates them is artistic style and storyline.

 The Game Designer has to come up with a game that brings new ideas to the table but still holding a grip on how to make the player entertained.
But of course, the Designer isn't the only one responsible for the final outcome of a game. Back in the day, it only took a team or 5 or so people to create a game. Nowadays it takes a team of many more because there is alot more to do and people have fell into the specifics like game art, programming, animating or production.
Generally how it works is, a game company recieves a Design Document from a certain game's designer and the company has a certain deadline and contract in which to create this game, aswell as a budget. First comes the planning, then the concept art and initial 3D ideas. The programmers then come and make everything work and the animators get right on to the cut scenes... (cut a long story short) the game is complete and everyone's happy. It's not allways that smooth but you get the idea.

So i guess the designer is the big guy with the idea and everyone else are like lil worker bees putting this idea together... huh. I wanna be a games designer.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Writing about games.

So apparently (not mentioning any names) somebody doesn't think that my cute lil' GIFs are "necessary". They don't think they help at all in any way, so I'm going to write this blog without any helpful (some may say distracting) GIFs at all.

This entry is a blog about video game reviews.
I had always wondered what it would be like to be a journalist.To write about the truth of things, for the good of the readers. I thought that maybe journalism is like in the movies when the investigator is all serious and full of honor. In reality it isn't like that at all. (who would have thought)
example of an xbox magazine. "ps3 is dead" it declares.
In fact when it comes to game reviews and magazine articles, it's a dirty business. Like every part of the industry, money has a huge deal to do with it. One of the big issues about game journalism is that all the top guys reckon that gaming magazines would get along just fine with untalented writers who get the job done. After all, who are we to distinguish between a sloppy review and a believable one? The gullible reader, who just wants a quick look at how many 'out of tens' Fable 3 got? The problem is that reviews have a big impact on how well a game sells. Which i think is silly.The xbox 360 magazine cover to the right here is just an example. At the top it says "unofficial, unbiased and unrivalled" then it states that "ps3 is dead" which actually made me laugh because it's such a stupid contradiction. How can you believe something like this? Just look at the cover, laugh to yourself and place it back on it's shelf.

When a new film that comes out looks interesting, unlike my other half, i refrain from reading reviews before watching it myself. Why? Well because after reading that review, the writer's interpretation is stuck in your head and alters the way you're going to now think of that film. If it was a bad review, you'd go to the cinema thinking you're about to watch a bad film. Even if the film isn't that bad at all, you're going to have that view in your head that whole time. Picking out the mentioned faults whilst you watch, even. Whereas if you entered the cinema with a clear head you can pick out faults you yourself believe to be and not what some idiot on the Internet trolled. I'm guessing it's the same with game. And who's to say that others don't have different opinions about a film? I mean, if i went to watch Thomas the Tank engine 3D at the cinema, no doubt i would hate it. I'd write, "This film is a boring piece of poo for people with a small brain or intellectual disorder." If a small child went to see it, they may say it was great! Fantastic! They learnt so much from the slow progression and easy to understand morals. My point is, you can't really pinpoint how everyone's experience is going to be like when it comes to watching a film or playing a game. People are different.
"There’s also all sorts of games writers who don’t give a toss about the craft of what they’re doing, either having completely forgotten why they were doing it in the first place after being stomped by their superiors or never really had a clue in the first place. "
Says Kieron Gillen in one of his blogs about crappy journalism.
You also have the danger of reading really badly written reviews. If this is the case then the reviewer was either flaming because he has a grudge, or was so impressed that he believes the game to be without flaw at all. (which is silly because every game has a flaw of some sort)

Newgrounds flash  about a certain game review that many loved and enjoyed because of it's truthful points and intellectual discussion. (No i lie, it's a funny about a terrible game review.) An example to all. What made it funny is the fact that the game is called "PSTW Rpg" (press space to win Rpg) and was intentionally a stupid game. This kid didn't get that cute pun however, and decided to make a stand. Like many game reviewers today, a kid doesn't get it and so the reader is pulled into the same type of thinking. I recommend watching it.

It's a pretty mean thing actually. This whole reviewing business. Mainly because people depend on them so that they don't end up wasting money on a crappy game. However, reviewers are all ways going to be bias of some sort. Whether it's to please the big guys or to hype a game because they're getting slipped a few extra to do so. It effects the gaming industry though and adds to the already huge pile of stress that comes with the whole palava. Stress that isn't really needed.

In my opinion, somebody should release a magazine that's truthful and non-bias. A hero to the world of gaming, with decent writers and honorable reviewers! A magazine that doesn't become all weak at the knees when the sound of money threatens to fatten up their wallets. Or something like that.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

My Personal History of Game

So i grew up with two elder brothers. Later on my dear mother gave birth to two other wonderful kids, my lil bro and my lil sis. But that's any other story. One with alot more... gore.
The three of us were close back then. We grew up in a single parent family (not that single parents don't do as well, it was just unfortunate that my mum couldn't get a job whilst caring for us) so we never had the 'latest' doo-daa's or the trendiest of clothing. The poor second born had all the hand-me-downs from the first and i got away with it because i was the only girl. No complaints there.
So when my eldest brother came home from school with an Atari one day (charity from another kid i assume) you could only imagine the gleam on our faces as we plugged it in and had a play on a console for the very first time. I can't remember the year exactly but i assume i was something like 7 or 8 (1997/1998) because my brothers were still in junior school.

Missile Command, Asteroids and Space invaders (shown below, missile command) were the very first games i remember playing. Kudos goes to my mum actually because she jogged my memory a few months ago when we were discussing how my course was going. She said "You've always loved computer games even when your brothers would play you would just sit and watch. Do you remember the Atari?" Well i did now! Ah yes the Atari. Lest we forget your stylish bulky brown physic and 8-bit gaming quality.
 One game i absolutely remember and LOVED was Shinobi. Purely because it was so ridiculously difficult and you'd spend countless hours trying to complete it. And we did one day! It was a magical day. That brave ninja finally rescued his love from the guy with the weird sweepy hair that kinda creeped me out as a kid.. (Below, the first boss)

 Yeeeah i remember the three of us all huddled round, taking turns to complete a level once one of us died. I guess i could have spent more time reading a book or doing my homework come to think of it.
And I guess when my mother saw how much easier raising children was with a console in the house she couldn't help herself. For Christmas a couple years later (around 1998) she got us all a SEGA.
Whenever i see that word in my head i always have to sing:
                 "Seygaa" ~ 
 With the little *bling* after it... If you've ever owned one you'd know what i meant :p ! And immediately i think of Sonic. But i didn't really want to mention sonic in this because of it's recent embarrassment in video gaming. It was great once upon a time but everyone knows sonic. No, the game i have to mention is 'Alex the Kid' or 'Alex the kidd in miracle world' which was built into the Sega. Brilliant game. It's sad that I've lost all the many game cartridges we once had. I left them in Derby when we moved to Leicester. Should have kept them for the nostalgia but what can you do.

Then there was the Dreamcast which was the first console i saw that took CDs. We had a Nintendo 64 after that. My favourite game of all time is Zelda ocarina of time. Down to this day. And it kinda makes me sad that that's the case, because the whole Zelda theme has been taken to a whole new level where everyone thinks it's super cool and super trendy to be into that. i really hate being apart of 'trends' but it IS THE MOST greatest game i've ever played. Oh cruel internet...
Then we somehow obtained a Playstation AND a Gamecube. My eldest brother had started working at the local Indian restaurant so these luxuries were a real treat... sometimes. When we'd have a tiff or a fallout suddenly we were banned from his consoles. It took a lot of sucking up and sweets to release said ban let me tell you.
I'm cutting a long story short here for your sake.
Then we had an xbox which by this time entertained all 5 of us (lil bro and lil sis included). And finally, an Xbox 360.
Well the three of us have all branched off now so we don't experience gaming like the old days anymore. We all still talk about the next releases and brag about achievements and gamer scores but it'll never be the same. Not like the days when video gaming was a release from everything in the world. School and home. When it was a time of bonding and the sibling togetherness. 
I guess when it boils down to it, video games are sometimes more than just video games. In my life personally, they played a big role in childhood and bring a lot of deep memories about that era flooding back to me. Maybe in a couple years time my little sister and brother will think back to when we used to play the xbox together and that will be their time.

Moving away from the deep personal aura ~

So now i look to the future! Where hopefully people will be fully immersed in gaming so much so that they never want to leave the game and all of society will collapse! Yeah!

Dead space gore... leading the way to even MORE gory games. Why not.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The History of Game, Now

Well it's alright getting hyped up about the next Call of Crap urm i mean Duty, or anticipating what the next xbox graphics will be like. You, the consumer, just buy the games and enjoy. However, behind the scenes gaming companies are under a lot of stress due to cost, competition and technology.

For example, back in the day a game would cost X to make and would sell for Y amount. Nowadays a game would cost X to make and would sell for Y amount. The problem today though is development of technology and expensive costs of X. Games today may sell for more, but they also cost a lot more to make. The cost of development is rising dramatically, whereas in the 1980's you'd have maybe a single programmer. Today it usually takes a team of over 200 people. Thus, Y rises also.
Below, an example taken from arstechnica.com.

"Even after adjusting for inflation, the figures below paint a striking story. The cost of developing high-profile games has increased exponentially over the last few years, with costs for the next generation of consoles expected to continue this trend. Estimates have ranged from a 20% to a 100% increase in development costs for next-generation titles."

 Another factor that hits developers hard is the competition, which links in with technological advances. Companies need to keep up with today's advances which costs more money. They also need to be aware of other competitor's consoles and systems to assure that releases are up to scratch.
Okamoto, chief technical officer for Sony Computer Entertainment said,

"Moore's Law is too slow for us,"  (referring to the long-held truism that semiconductor power doubles roughly every 18 months.) "We can't wait 20 years to achieve a 1,000-fold increase in PlayStation performance."

With today's new HD craze and soon to be HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imaging) progression, it takes a little more than a few programmers to create a game. And a little more than a clever man to develop a new console. The industry is under a lot of stress to keep YOU happy.

And speaking of HDRI and advances in TV and Video, What the heck!? I mean, they are trying to get imaging technology as powerful as the human eye. I ask, what's the point? We all have eyes (Sorry blind people) so why would you want a TV that reflects images like your eyes? Why not just... look! there we go, an awesome design already experienced. Go outside! Look at the clouds and the world through your own eyes. Not through a screen that resembles your eyes. How silly and pointless. Billions of dollars gone into this new technology that does something you could already do... for free. Yes it would make gaming experience more immersing but i ask only that people appreciate what they already have. Well aaaaanyway back to the point...*ahem*..

So next time you pick up the new Halo, give a thought to the trouble and hard work that's gone into that game. Remember the advances throughout 60 years! The advances that have changed the gaming world, and the advances that are yet to come.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The History of Game. 1980's to 1990's

A continuation of  'The History of Game'

Before i get on to my very first game experience, let me tell you a little about the very first 3D game.

The first 3D game was 'Monster Maze' created in 1980 by a J.K.Greye and programmed by Malcolm Evans. The aim of the game was to escape the maze without being eaten. But it was in 3D! So no complaints there. It was the first of it's kind and it was the start of something much bigger.

However, the more popular of this decade were the home consoles. Such as Sega, Nintendo, Atari and the Megadrive. I'll name a few games from this era and you'll understand why this was THE pinnacle in video gaming.

Remember some of these? Or maybe you recall playing some of the modern day 'Mario Brothers' or 'Donkey Kong'. These are their originals. It was this time, the 1980's era of gaming, that I had my very first play. My first games were 'Missile Command' and 'Space Invaders' on the Atari joystick. I then remember my elder brother getting a Sega for Christmas. I played Sonic until my thumbs were sore. I also remember playing Bomber man and oh lest we forget... Alex the Kid (or 'Alex Kidd in Miracle World') which was built into the sega.

We were a decade behind, but it was a decade i would have rather been in for my first experience anyway. Enough of the nostalgia, let's move on.

This decade gave birth to many popular games today, however in 1983 there was what's called today as a 'Video Game Crash'. Where consoles were churned out in an attempt to make profit and poorly designed games made many people recline at the idea of spending money on more games. People lost faith and interest in games and consoles. Companies lost a lot of money or were eaten up entirely. Next Gen consoles saved the day. In 98 sega released Fourth generation Megadrive, after that the progress continued and the market recovered better than ever. (...some could say)

In the 1990's, gaming was rapidly advancing. And it was about the time that Japan began to take over the majority of the industry. 
 Some fun facts of the 90's:
Nintendo released  Super Mario Bros. 3 in North America which sold 17.28 million copies, making it the best-selling stand-alone video game of all time. (This record has now been beaten by CoD Black-ops... it pains me to say. Within the first 24 Hours 7 Million copies were sold.)
In 1992 the first 'Mortal Kombat' was released. (Right)
In 1993 Sega releases Sonic CD, Sonic Spinball, the Alien 3: The Gun arcade game, and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (which i also remember playing).
In 1996 Tomb Raider was released for the PC, PlayStation, and the Sega Saturn.
(By this point it's not just lonely men in their mum's basements playing games anymore)
And in 1999 Sega releases their final console, the Dreamcast, before retiring from console making.

  Pretty interesting stuff, huh?