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Showing posts from 2009

Branching Dialog and in Game Choices

Intro
Today I'm going to reflect on in-game dialog choices. In some games they're just thrown in to give the user an illusion of choice. If done poorly they can take out the immersible quality of the game. This is mostly inspired by me playing lots of Bioware games and thinking back on dialog choices in other games. So I'll start with those.

-Sample Games-
Neverwinter Nights 2 (Obsidian)
Knights of the Old Republic (Bioware)
Harvest Moon Island of Happiness (Natsume)
Harvest Moon Sunshine Islands (Natsume)
Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess (Nintendo)

Okay here are the five games I'm going to look at for this post. We're going to start from the bottom and take a look at Zelda (from here on LOZ).
LOZ is notorious for having false choices in the game dialogs. One of the more famed examples is in Ocarina of Time (N64) when Zelda first asks Link for help. You have the choice of saying "no" but what happens is you go through this endless loop of Zelda asking for help u…

Hero Character: Design

-Introduction -
Heroes are a fascinating topic. There are many stories and adventures especially interested in exploring the anti-hero. I intend to explore the topic of a hero character with particular interest to adventure stories in various visual medias with a focus on comics and video games.
For another discussion on the topic of heroes, check out this episode of The Dish.

This thought bubble was inspired in part by an opinion blog on Gamasutra about the New Prince of Persia characters with focus on the general opposition to the new "prince" character.

So we shall start with what is appealing about a hero.

-Universal Appeal-
There is something about a hero that is appealing to the audience. In general, people like to see a happy conclusion where the character over comes a conflict of some sort. So the act of the hero vanquishing evil is a very clean-cut representation of this ingrained (perhaps even cultural) pleasure of seeing "the good guy" win. So there's prob…

LOH: ReSkinned

I had another idea for this game using a visual novel style instead.
Basically the fun part for me is writing the story and having the user pick their favorite love interest for the end. However, it would not be a LOZ fangame but an original set of characters.

Currently I'm writing the script.

Opinion: Visual Novels

So since I started my project on Ren'Py, I've been introduced to another facet of the game creating community. Visual Novels.

My intention for the engine was something different than what it's usually used for...I think. I have seen a life sim created on this engine so I know it's possible. Visual Novels are a genre not very popular in the Western World. I used to wonder why...and now I get it.

Originally when I heard "visual novel" I imagined something a bit like "Hotel Dusk" where it was very interactive. Or even a choose your own adventure. However, I downloaded someone's free visual novel to check it out. I kept clicking (and not reading) wondering WTF I would get to make a choice. It was then that it dawned on me that perhaps I don't get to really MAKE a choice. OR it took a LOT longer before the player could make one.

And it was boring as hell. I could NOT believe how this was popular. Something on a computer or game system is interactive…

First Impressions: Avalon Code

You know it's actually pretty hard to find a decent DS RPG title. And even harder to find a DS game with controls that make sense. Recently, I got a game by Atlus (one of my fave companies) called Avalon Code. I had read reviews on Amazon.com about it and decided I liked the idea behind the game. It was worth checking out. Here is what I think so far...

-Graphics-
Shoot me please. Why do DS titles insist on 3D graphics? They look TERRIBLE! The anti-aliasing is so HUGE it's like I'm looking at pixel sprites blown up to 4 times their actual size. It's one of those things where at a distance, yeah the sprites look okay. But they keep showing CLOSE UP shots of the character! And for me how graphics looks adds a whole lot to how I perceive a game. I would have been much happier if they went the same route as Disgaea where you had cut scenes where still shots of the character speaking (with different expressions) overlay the small sprite animations. Actually if I remember co…

Game Design: Force Feedback

So I've officially given up (for now) on Kingdom Hearts and moved on to KH2. I know...I'm such a glutton for punishment...but to be fair...they DID clean up some things in KH2 like being able to skip cutscenes (bless you) and some way cooler fighting animations and stuff. And the gummi ship crap isn't as crappy anymore AND...

Right analog stick controls the camera. *tears of joy* Thank you!

But that's not what I wanted to write about today. While playing the game and watching cutscenes I began to notice how much that darn controller buzzed or "rumbled". I thought...when did this become cool?

Looking Back
I want to say arcade games were the ones that provided more of the "force feedback". That made them cool. You're sitting in a driving chair for a car racing game where it shakes when you bump something. Or the gun has some realistic throw back in a shooting game. Bringing this same subtle rumble into the home systems may have started pretty earl…

Game Design: Combat Themes

99% of all games made seem to have some sort of combat theme. Okay, that's so not an accurate percentage, but that's how much it FEELS like. There are obviously several very awesome games not based on combat. One of which I'm currently playing now, Harvest Moon. But enough of that pacifist style storylines, let's talk battles.
OH, and I'm totally zeroing in on Fantasy stories too. Two birds with one stone and all. :)

Dealing with Conflict
Every story needs conflict. That is what a story is after all: a series of conflicts and resolutions. In story writing books or classes, there are 3 very basic forms of conflict.
They were:
Man vs. Man
Man vs. Nature
Man vs. Self

Many stories have these conflicts and when they do, it boils down that the only way to resolve the conflict is physical force. Fighting. Violence. Etc. At the very least in games and fantasy it does.

The reason for this is that it's simply the easiest and most exciting method of solving the conflict. An epic…

Game Design: Controllers

Back to games. Sorry for the odd detour. This time I'm going to talk about INPUT methods for games.

Intro
Granted I'm just over two decades old, but I have seen my share of unusual controllers. Although I've not used them all.
They ranged from keyboards to joysticks and buttons. There are some things that I like and dislike about some of the more recent controllers. But being the nostalgic git that I am I'm going to look back before looking forward.

Joysticks/Keyboards
Early games on computer systems used a keyboard. (Yay for text based games). And there's not much to expound on that. The keyboard remains a staple example of a game input device. Although now it's often combined with a mouse.
In the past, I remember that it was ONLY the keyboard that controlled everything or only the mouse. (Or you could switch between the options.) Now very often I have to combine them. Now on the surface there's nothing particularly wrong about this method of input. However, …

Game Design: Lights, Camera, Action!

So inspired by something I noticed in my previous rant, I'm going to write about cameras in games. Which is strange because there's actually (usually) NO cameras using in game production. But it comes from 3D animation which uses "virtual cameras" to shoot scenes. Well you could argue it came from 2D animation too but you actually do use cameras for that. :)

3D Space and Camera
I got a degree in film and video...which I only say to validate the amount of money I spent getting said degree in hopes that it validates what I type. VALIDITY!
Now that most console games and many casual games have gone 3D camera position and angles are important. But the camera (from film) has a language! A cinematic language. And there are also rules of thumb or rather things like rules of thirds (which photographers should also be familiar with. It's about framing a shot for those unfamiliar). However, only in-game cinematics (out of the player's control) use this language. A low an…

Game Whining: Kingdom Hearts

So I'm not great at "gaming" although I spend many hours in the activity. I'm not trying to be awesome or really think too much about the game play or strategy until I get stuck.
I've started playing Kingdom Hearts which I got for Christmas a couple years back. I started it and had to put it down for school and other games. I have been meaning to play it and now I am.

But there is so much I HATE about this game that I must complain about here. We're going into rant mode.

Controls
This is a classic example of a game where there are too many control options for battles. I've played the game for several hours and usually after the first couple of hours things become second nature. I fear it may take more like 10 hours or more before I get used to these blasted controls.

First off they don't make much sense. It's as if they were trying to combine action based combat with menu-based JRPG battle. Which CAN work, in certain cases but usually there's a…

Game Design: Level of Difficulty

One of my favorite online video feeds is the Angry Video Game Nerd and Zero Punctution. The former goes the nostalgic route and looks at early games to point out and mock all their flaws. Of which there are many. Zero Punctuation criticizes newer games on some of the same fronts.
Some of the complaints are about the difficulty of the game. Old games are Harder in that they're more unforgiving, the programming is buggier, and poor design decisions were made. (Such as the "trial and error" method). I was just reading an article outlining how the Zelda games have gotten "easier". It got me thinking about level of difficulty in games.

Audiences
This I think is one of the more important factors of designing the difficulty of a game. I mentioned in an earlier blog post, that there are certain preferences and styles of game players. Some that are obsessed with their skills, some looking just to relax and some to play socially.

Audiences of mainstream games are changing. S…

Game Design: Sound...of music

Audio as a part of game design is an often "neglected" part. Usually because it's a low priority to what a game NEEDS to function. A game needs programming and visual interfaces which is why so much effort is put into a game. Audio was not a necessity in a game. For a long time they were just beeps and buzzes. Now that we are in a more sophisticated generation of games, audio plays a larger role or can. There are a few games that rely on audio as part of the game play.

What Audio Does
When I was working on my master's project, we were almost completely focused on getting graphics and programming in. In my evaluation, I was told that my game needed more audio to feel more complete. And you know what? There is a world of difference between my soundless game and my game with audio.
And it was nearly effortless. All we had were some bells and whistles for positive and negative feedback. A click noise for buttons. And some sound loops for background audio.

In short here are…

Stories: What's Love Got to Do with it?

In an earlier blog post I discussed various relationship types and how they are handled in stories. Well, I'm mostly taking that same subject but going on a deeper perhaps more philosophical method. And by philosophical method you know I'm going through the 3 loves. Knowing the three loves can help in the understanding of relationships between characters and people.

Introduction
Now the 3 loves are a very Western Philosophy rooted subject. Being as most of my education in philosophy is western based, I can not vouch for any Eastern or New Age Equivalent.
The three loves are: Eros, Philia, and Agape.
There are also other philosophic and sociology based love types or styles including: Stoge, Ludus, Pragma, and Mania.

In this I will first start with the classic three and make notes on the other styles. Because they're all important when considering love between two characters.

Eros
Plato was the one who wrote down the philosophy behind the 3 loves. (Based on Socrates teachings.) Ero…

Comics: Mature Themes

What are mature themes?
Have you ever heard of the "three subjects never to be discussed at the dinner table"?
They were: Religion, Politics, and Sex
(Which some say are actually good things to discuss with the family.)
Anyway, these three things are generally the subjects people feel very personal about and very passionately. It is sure to get a reaction when posted for public viewing. And usually that's what the artist/writer intends.

Mature Themes used in media
Including these topics in your story is guarantee to bring eyes to your work. Sex Sells is a phrase often thrown around, but it's true. Controversy also sells, particularly political or religious controversy. To me at least, it seems like Mature Themes are used as an advertising ploy to get the most attention. Because attention means money.

Similarly, the idea applies to Indie media too! Web-comics are the medium I'll focus on in this blog. Sex is certainly a seller if you want people to read your comic. Look…

My Relations with the Elves

It's no secret that one of my favorite fantasy creatures to draw and write (besides unicorns) is elves and fairies. Even when I was in middle school I enjoyed the fantasy of fairies being like the creatures in Disney's Fantasia or the cute little dolls I had. And as I matured and read more fiction and watched more fiction, I grew to like the idea more and more. Now I still like elves as a fantasy creature but it's a very shall I say "popular" version that I prefer over the "traditional".
Yep. This blog post is going to be similar to my post about unicorns I made awhile ago.

Traditions, Traditions
Most folktales about the fair folk come from the British Isles (although I'm well aware that the rest of Europe had these stories too!). But the ones most familiar I think are the ones from Ireland. In general, they're miserable little buggers. (Bugger is such a naughty British term. :)) Fairies would steal children, cause back luck, and make mischief. T…

Game Review Magazines

Last year for a research project, I did an analysis of the content of game review magazines. For the project the purpose was to provide a competitive analysis for our proposed project. My project was a family oriented game review magazine. There really aren't many. In fact, I could only find one online magazine.

The Big Players
For my analysis I chose what I considered the most popular game magazines in print. They were:
Game Informer
GamePro
Nintendo Power

By far, game informer had the most previews and reviews of all the magazines. Consequently it also had the most ads. Nintendo Power is the oldest of the three and was pretty exclusive to Nintendo brand games so naturally the list of reviews and previews were less.

For awhile I had a subscription to Game Informer and I got some free issues of Nintendo Power as a bonus for some pre-order. Personally I preferred NP because I really only had Nintendo systems so it made sense. When I signed up for a member's card at Gamestop they…

Japanese Games

I had promised to speak a bit about this in another post. First, I should start with a disclaimer. In no way do I claim to be any sort of expert of Japanese culture. My resources are from friends who have visited the country, movies, anime, and some game research. Any claims I make is pure speculation and if I am making any blatantly incorrect statements I ask any readers to please point them out so I can correct them.

But luckily this should have very little to do on Japanese culture expertise and only reflected in their games. (An expression of culture like any art form.)

Some Literature
I have with me a very lovely book my friend, professor, adviser gave to me (that she help write) called "Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat". (Shameless plug?) In it there is a chapter written by Mizuko Ito called "Gender Dynamics of the Japanese Media Mix". It outlines the way Japanese media (including video games) have time and again created something that crossed gender boundaries.…