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Walking Simulators

While some believe that ‘Walking Simulators’ as a genre is evolving it is fair to argue that it is quite the contrary. Firstly, the term ‘walking simulator’ is a, “…derogatory phrase… even though some are attempting to adopt the term as a positive label” (Goodwin, 2014). A better suited term for games like Near Death and DayZ would be exploratory visual narrative. This is supported by Gamasutra writer Ara Shirinian who comments that, “forms of media that video games are best (and uniquely) suited to express are visual narratives”

Figure 1: Map of DayZ

Although maps like DayZ will lead to a lot of walking and exploring these games should not be defined by the derogatory term ‘walking simulator’ when there are plenty of embedded and emergent stories to unfold. Dear Esther for example triggered narratives at certain locations to reveal more of the story for the player which gave the exploration meaning rather than just aimless walking as the term ‘walking sim’ infers. Walking sims are not evolving as a genre but the games the degrading term is used on have developed in multiple ways.

Figure 2: Dear Esther narrative trigger

References

Dear Esther Gameplay. (2016). [image] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlGdbziSwEY

Goodwin, J. (2014). Screw Your Walking Simulators – Electron Dance. [online] Electron Dance. Available at: http://www.electrondance.com/screw-your-walking-simulators/

Map of DayZ the mod. (2016). [image] Available at: http://www.millenium.org/dayz/accueil/guides/dayz-carte-map-taille-dayz-carte-map-taille-loot-zombies-apocalypse-102412

Riendeau, D. (2016). Walking Simulators are growing up and stepping out. [online] ZAM. Available at: http://www.zam.com/article/865/walking-simulators-are-growing-up-and-stepping-out

Shirinian, A. (2016). Gamasutra – The Uneasy Merging of Narrative and Gameplay. [online] Gamasutra.com. Available at: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4253/the_uneasy_merging_of_narrative_php?print=1

Open World Games Future

No Man’s Sky, although great in its vision, has set the standard for what open world games should NOT do. The reason open world games excluding No Man’s Sky have done well is because they have “technicalities… up to a high level, the attention to detail is incredible, [and] the entire virtual world  has the ability to keep the players playing for hours.” (NotTheSingularity, 2016). Not to say that No Man’s Sky has no detail and ability to keep players entertained for long periods of time however, “The problem with exploration-driven gameplay at this scale is over-generalization, and you’ll notice it straight off in No Man’s Sky” (Peckham, 2016). Yes, No Man’s Sky has opened up the idea of having an extremely large open world game but it hasn’t reinvented the way game designers should make them.

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Figure 1: Brief Galaxy Zoom Out of No Man’s Sky

“There is another thing about open-world games that I think we all know… The sad truth is, it’s almost impossible to have any kind of decent story in a sandbox game. Plot is built on characters, and a sandbox is basically a way of giving players permission to make their characters do whatever the hell they want.” – Diggy, 2015 (Game Reviewer)

With Diggy’s comment above, it becomes clear why games such as GTA and Assassin’s Creed, although also open world, stayed comfortably inside a set story. Even Minecraft has particular goals like slaying the Ender Dragon or killing the Wither. Open world games are great but like everything else, they have their limits and No Man’s Sky has demonstrated that.

 

References

Diggy, (2015). The Downside of Open World Games – GameSpew. [online] GameSpew. Available at: http://www.gamespew.com/2015/07/the-downsides-of-open-world-games/

Galaxy Map. (2016). Available at: http://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2014/12/08/galactic-map-puts-scale-of-no-man-s-sky-in-perspective.aspx

Peckham, M. (2016). No Man’s Sky Review for Playstation 4. [online] Time.com. Available at: http://time.com/4444324/no-mans-sky-review/

PlayStation.Blog.Europe. (2014). Exploring the 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 planets of No Man’s Sky. [online] Available at: https://blog.eu.playstation.com/2014/08/26/exploring-18446744073709551616-planets-mans-sky/

Singularity, N. (2016). What makes open world games so attractive? | Not The Singularity. [online] Notthesingularity.com. Available at: http://notthesingularity.com/what-makes-open-world-games-so-attractive/

 

Music and Games

Music is constantly evolving and being used for various reasons within games. Within gaming, music has evolved into an essential way to either evoke emotions or encourage playstyles. Popular early games such as Super Mario Bros. and Castlevania III have used tempo as a way to encourage an urgent playstyle in which the music is sped up to make time feel as if it is going faster (Aranzaes, 2014). The image below demonstrates the rising water segment of Castlevania which without the music would dull the desperation trying to be established.killme

Figure 1: Screenshot of Castlevania rising water section.

Music in games have also descended from musical techniques from cinema (McDonald, 2005). Genre specific games such as horror or survival games use eerie-like music in order to set the atmosphere for a game. In Resident Evil 4 the music included “strange howling to unsettling ambience… creating backdrops that did not stand out but rather created dread without the player realizing it.” (Barkan, 2014).

Music has currently been used in order to encourage playstyles and evoke emotions but that isn’t music’s limitations. Studies have shown that music can even assist or detract from ones performance in games. For example one study, “found that male gamers scored almost twice as many points while playing the first-person shooter game DOOM with the sound on (chilling music, weaponfire, screams, and labored breathing).” (Tan, 2014). The point is that music in games can play a crucial role in areas greater than just aesthetics.

 

 

References

Aranzaes, H. (2014). » The Power of Video Game Music. [online] Thepunkeffect.com. Available at: http://thepunkeffect.com/the-power-of-video-game-music/

Barkan, J. (2014). How Music Can Change… ‘Resident Evil 1-3’ vs. ‘Resident Evil 4’ – Bloody Disgusting!. [online] Bloody Disgusting!. Available at: http://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3312546/music-can-change-resident-evil-1-3-vs-resident-evil-4/

Ichiyama, S. and Senbongi, M. (2005). A Ruined Village. [CD] Japan: Suleputer. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uyBy8_QeMU

Lewin, L. (2016). Debris. [online] vextro. Available at: https://vextroforever.wordpress.com/2016/08/07/debris/

McDonald, G. (2005). A History of video Game Music. [online] Gamespot.com. Available at: http://www.gamespot.com/articles/a-history-of-video-game-music/1100-6092391/

Tan, S. (2014). Video Games: Do You Play Better With the Sound On or Off?. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-shapes-film/201402/video-games-do-you-play-better-the-sound-or

TasVideosChannel, (2014). [TAS] NES Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse “Trevor, Sunken City path” by Fortranm in 30:19.64. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFHpFgkKw44

 

Augmented Reality

Pokemon Go was a simple spark that started a wildfire. With new technology allowing for virtual reality, augmented reality has also slotted itself within the mix. Considering the fact that augmented reality has been in the works, “from 1968 to 2016” (Augment, 2016) and only just blown out of proportion demonstrates an extremely viable pathway for game developers to step into.

Although both virtual and augmented reality incorporate heavy immersion they are both mediated in alternate ways. The difference is defined in the following:

“Virtual reality is based upon a complete simulation of a real world environment which the user can explore and interact with by means of a head mounted display (HMD) and input device…But with augmented reality the user sees the real world but with the addition of computer generated images which are overlaid on various objects within the real world. They are still aware that they are in the real world as compared to the full immersion in a virtual world.” – Virtual Reality Society

There are a lot of pros to an augmented reality game. Pokemon Go being the core example of this. The game is breaking stereotypes, creating large social groups on media and at meetups.

                                Figure 1: Society’s stereotyped ‘Gamer’ from South Park

People have seen and dreamed of pokemon in reality and augmented reality is the best way to give them that. Cecilia D’Anastasio conducted interviews with trainers in which one person stated “On social media right now, the only two topics you see are racial inequality and Pokemon Go that showcases exactly how powerful this is, for it to be neck and neck with something as important as social justice.” The reason why this is such a remarkable comment is that it breaks the ‘gamer stereotypes’. With a multitude of game genres still to be tested with augmented reality the question is how far it can be taken after this.

References

Augment, (2016). Infographic: The History of Augmented Reality – Augment News. [online] Augment News. Available at: http://www.augment.com/blog/infographic-lengthy-history-augmented-reality/

D’Anastasio, C. (2016). Pokémon Go Is Bringing New Yorkers Together. [online] Kotaku.com. Available at: http://kotaku.com/a-documentary-on-how-pokemon-go-is-bringing-new-yorkers-1783922007

Kriss, S. (2016). Resist Pokémon Go | Jacobin. [online] Jacobinmag.com. Available at: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/07/pokemon-go-pokestops-game-situationist-play-children/

Society, V. (2015). How augmented reality works – Virtual Reality. [online] Virtual Reality. Available at: http://www.vrs.org.uk/augmented-reality/how-it-works.html

Magic needs Limitations

Edwin Evans-Thirlwell: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2016-08-13-putting-the-magic-back-into-fantasy-games

Games will always have limitations to magic but when, “magic is, by definition, the art of doing the impossible” (Thirlwell, 2016) it makes us question why that is. There are two reasons for this – enjoyment and balance.

Games such as WoW or Dark Souls thrive on beating difficult opponents without which would create no sense of achievement. Balance is necessary for magic because”powerful spells… [make] it too easy for the protagonists to overcome challenges.” (Buck, 2014). Evidence of this is clearly evident in the following case:

“Magic without limitations is like Superman. Because Superman is too powerful, Superman comics and movies are lame. His opponents are either too overmatched or too overblown…” – McHugh, 2012 (fantasy writer)

The addition of such limitations with magic systems can help to convey the story. When the systems follow the religions or rules of the contextual worlds they reside in they, “break the mold, [and] you get some of the best supernatural rules in roleplaying.” (Ashkenazi, 2015). Limiting magic in games becomes both a necessity to make the game more enjoyable and balanced overall.

References

Ashkenazi, O. (2015). Five Great Magic Systems in Roleplaying Games – Mythcreants. [online] Mythcreants.com. Available at: http://mythcreants.com/blog/five-great-magic-systems-in-roleplaying-games/

Buck, E. (2014). Four Ways to Limit Magic & Technology – Mythcreants. [online] Mythcreants.com. Available at: http://mythcreants.com/blog/four-ways-to-limit-magic-technology/

Girl, J. (2011). Superman. [image] Available at: http://getnuts.net.br/geek-art-os-super-herois-hq-de-greg-horn/superman-2

McHugh, I. (2012). On The Definitive Rules For Writing Magic (Or, Some Shit My Writers’ Group Made Up One Night). [online] Ian McHugh. Available at: https://ianmchugh.wordpress.com/on-writing/on-the-definitive-rules-for-writing-magic-or-some-shit-my-writers-group-made-up-one-night/

Moore, M. (2011). Basics of Game Design. [online] Google Books. Available at: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=E9JG6JjPU-sC&pg=PA214&lpg=PA214&dq=limiting+magic+in+games&source=bl&ots=O-s-sdDMGq&sig=fnK90JQm98Y7I4sfTIwDVzAufPE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj0tvni4czOAhXKJJQKHQ4dCgwQ6AEIKDAC#v=onepage&q=limiting%20magic%20in%20games&f=false

Thirlwell, E. (2016). Putting the magic back into magic in fantasy games. [online] Eurogamer.net. Available at: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2016-08-13-putting-the-magic-back-into-fantasy-games

Dark Souls’ Repetitive Nature

Dark Souls is a game infamous for its difficulty and definite high death counts. However this part of the game can be deemed essential for another layer of gameplay. Steven Strom (2016) comments that, “…other RPGs use experience points to bolster your abilities Dark Souls uses actual experience.” The repetitive nature is described as a way to make players create new methods to overcome an area of difficulty.

However it is this difficulty and repetitive nature that forces players to feel a great sense of reward.  “When you do finally take down that villain who wiped you out, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will floor you…That’s a feeling unlike any other in gaming. Defeating an enemy in Dark Souls is a high that no other game can create.” (Marcus 2016) The gratification of the repetition is further corroborated by reviewer Adam Smith (2016) stating Dark Souls is, “…at its best when it’s teaching you how to succeed, through a process of repetition and gradual improvement.” Dark Souls may be infamous for its difficulty, however through the evidence provided, the game uses its difficulty and repetition in a successful way.

 

 

References

Marcus, B. (2016). ‘Dark Souls III’ and the Reward of Repetition. [online] Fandom – Powered by Wikia. Available at: http://fandom.wikia.com/articles/dark-souls-reward-repetition

McMullan, T. (2016). Dark Souls 3 and the terror of repetition Dark Souls 3 and the terror of repetition Dark Souls 3 and the terror of repetition Dark S…. [online] Alphr. Available at: http://www.alphr.com/games/1003326/dark-souls-3-and-the-terror-of-repetition-dark-souls-3-and-the-terror-of-repetition

Smith, A. (2016). Early Impressions: Dark Souls III. [online] Rock Paper Shotgun. Available at: https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2016/03/29/dark-souls-iii-pc-impressions/

Strom, S. (2016). How Dark Souls III designs around our expectations. [online] ZAM. Available at: http://www.zam.com/article/408/how-dark-souls-iii-designs-around-our-expectations

 

Modularity and Efficiency

Connor’s Article : Creating Modular Game Art

While creating a game environment, artists must first understand the need to be efficient and innovative. Modular game assets are effective because, “…modules are like colors on a painter’s palette. They aren’t endless, but they can be combined in endless ways.” (Bradley, 2013) These endless combinations allow for the fast generation of a town or room.

 

 

References

Bradley, S. (2013). The Benefits Of Modular Design – Vanseo Design. [online] Vanseo Design. Available at: http://vanseodesign.com/web-design/modular-benefits/

Mader, P. (2005). Creating Modular Game Art For Fast Level Design. [online] Gamasutra.com. Available at: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/130885/creating_modular_game_art_for_fast_.php

Games and Violence

There has been great debate as to the correlation between video game violence and its affect on real life behavior. Many of the world’s greatest game publishers have recently addressed gun violence on stage. One behavioral researcher  stated, “youth violence has declined over the last several years while violent video game playing has increased significantly during the same period.” (Olson,2011). There have been remarks that for the kids that play video games the, “effects were quite small in magnitude…”(Dotinga, 2015) in relation to behaviour. The greatest way that the children were affected was academically.

While there have been many comments that violent video games have a direct link to behavioural changes it is evident that there are no definite links. A large amount of researchers would also comment that, “…violent behaviour is determined by many factors…” (Cooper, 2011) which indirectly supports the fact that violent games may not be at fault for any behavioural changes in youths.

 

 

References

Cooper, R. (2011). Do Video Games Influence Violent Behavior? – Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center. [online] Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center. Available at: http://yvpc.sph.umich.edu/video-games-influence-violent-behavior/

Crecente, B. (2016). Guns, games and violence: The real questions you should be asking. [online] Polygon. Available at: http://www.polygon.com/2016/6/24/12012888/guns-games-violence-questions

Dotinga, R. (2015). Violent Video Games Don’t Influence Kids’ Behavior: Study. [online] Consumer HealthDay. Available at: https://consumer.healthday.com/mental-health-information-25/behavior-health-news-56/violent-video-games-don-t-influence-kids-behavior-study-698040.html

 

Kentucky Route Zero

Dialogue may not be the most important factor in a majority of games, however Kentucky Route Zero utilizes this aspect to enhance the player’s experience. Although the game-play is unaffected by the choices made in conversation it creates a more immersive feel as players molds the character they play.

Ian R Buck comments that he, “really liked the conversation system they use. You always get to choose what your character says… [and] the choices are purely to shape the character in your own mind.” (Buck, 2013). This game follows one route but adjusts to each player by giving them a sense of freedom in each dialogue choice. Artist Patrick Jones (Jones, 2016) indicates that when artworks leave erased lines for the viewer to fill in that the audience gets involved with the art which is exactly what this great game has done. The player fills in blanks. The player feels the character. The player is immersed.

Alex Wiltshire in his post declares that, “While the overall narrative won’t shift, choices can quietly change future details, giving Kentucky Route Zero a subtle dynamism” and he is exactly right. The game’s dynamic feel allows, “(the player) more opportunity to explore and think about the dramatic situation.” (Kapell, 2016). Evident from the reviews, this game is great and the dialogue within enhances the enjoyment players experience.

 

 

 

References

Buck, I. (2015). Kentucky Route Zero Acts I & II Review. [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/@ianrbuck/kentucky-route-zero-acts-i-ii-review-fbb4552dc7c1#.pm4tqrbvv .

Jones, P. (2016). Lecture/Presentation notes .

Kapell, M. (2016). The play versus story divide in game studies.

Wiltshire, A. (2016). What Makes Kentucky Route Zero’s Dialogue So Good?. [online] Rock Paper Shotgun. Available at: https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2016/06/03/kentucky-route-zero-dialogue-analysis/ .

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