Archive for the 'Games' Category Page 2 of 4



Story through Character

Hello all, and yes, I am once again posting a blog! No wai! First I have some important news for the gaming culture: There has been a new website put up by some of the main faces in Australian video games (palgn.com.au, vooks.net etc) about introducing the R18+ to Australian game classifications, you can find it at http://www.everyoneplays.org.au. This website is a vital step in the right direction, and if all the big industry names in Australia get together and put their opinions forward, promoting education for people who do not understand the classification system, and strict rules as to who the games can and cannot be sold to. The introduction of the R18+ rating should be welcomed as it will give help stop games getting in under a MA15+ rating that really shouldn’t be, and we can stop games being changed for Australian audiences, which in itself will stop some people pirating games to get the extra content.

And back on with my normal blog. As many of you may or may not know, I am in my last year of my degree, and that of course means that I am beginning the final year project in which myself and four other students band together to design, implement, beta, test and “release” a complete and working game. There are a few small issues with this assumption so far. Each team is meant to have a programmer and our team of 4 designers and a animator does not have a programmer. Also, well… that’s about it. But creating a game without a programmer is not an easy task.

Once our group was finalised (about week 3 of semester) we all sat down and thought about this issue. What could we make that didn’t require a lot of programming, didn’t need a budget and wasn’t going to be at the scale of a development team of 200? What else? A 2D action platformer / side-scroller! This was perfect because we can essentially make the whole game out of Photoshop, throw it together in an engine like Torque and be able to get it doing everything we want it to do. I might even be able to program something that simple! Taking this idea to the “clients” (also known as tutors who will grade us) they said that because our group is kind of stunted, that 2D is fine, but we would have to make the story be the selling point. That is what I have dedicated this blog to.

Story is a multi-layer problem to solve. You have to have a plot line, you have to have compelling characters and reasons for actions. In the world of a 2D game, the player can always see themselves controlling the main character, which gives the player the impression that they ARE that character. This then changes the players rationale for all decisions within the game, and should give them a whole new perspective on what that character is feeling and why. Writing a story for a 2D game in my opinion should be done by using strong characters, with specific roles within the game universe. Every mission or level the player works through should have meaning, and should be given a reason, and explained to a satisfactory level.

This brings up the question, how does story progress? Should the game have cut-scenes, or should it be other characters within the game using speech bubbles to convey plot elements. Do speech bubbles even appeal to the sort of people who would be playing a 2D action game? I think a combination of both character-driven story and game-driven story would work best for our situation, and should be apparent the whole way through the game, even to the point of bosses having a dialogue with the character, and choices being given to the player as to whether they kill the boss or simply disable them (as an example). Giving the player the option to choose how they play the game will create a bond between the player and the player-character which will help immerse the player within the game. These options should be available from the beginning of the game, and never taken away.

Background is also important, whether it is discovered through the story, or if it is revealed to the player from the beginning. The earlier of the two (in my opinion) is the most enjoyable, where the player learns about whom they are controlling, and in a way influences their own interpretation of the character that they are discovering. The second method would be the fastest way to introduce a player to their character, and seems to be best suited to casual games (which don’t usually have much of a story) and other small games. With the game we are developing, I would like to implement a learn-as-you-play style, with very little setup on the characters or situation, encouraging players to get more out of the game and enjoy the storyline much more.

That is about all I have to say on the subject for now, but be sure to stick around for any more updates.

Keep thinking,
Andrew

Continuing to Play After WoW

Sorry about the wait again, I have been rather busy watching X-Files and replaying the original Half-Life in anticipation of Black Mesa Source.

Anyway, recently I have been playing a cute little game called World of Goo which is rather like Armadillo Run which I was obsessed with about two years back. It is a puzzle game based on the laws of gravity, making you stack “goo” on top of each other, using whatever you are given to save as many un-stacked goo as you can (Similar in premise to lemmings… use as few as you can to save as many as you can).

The developers of the game have an incredibly fun sense of humour, and used it well within the context of the story. Whether it is the strange “Sign Painter” or the way the eyes of the goo follow your mouse pointer, the game always leaves you smiling, unless of course you are bad at it, and tend to lose your goo… in which case the game can become rather frustrating. In a good way, of course.

Now in about a week I will be going on a holiday to the acclaimed Bribe Island for 8 days, and during this time I will be with good friends who like games. What better time, I asked myself, to introduce them the Dungeons and Dragons and possibly get myself a campaign going (finally). For a couple years now I have wanted a solid group of people to play with, as role playing and DM-ing are incredibly fun and good for your creative side. This might be my chance. I’ll keep you updated.

That’s all for now…
Andrew

Far Cry from the original

Right. So, my blog update is complete, now all I need to do is refine my portfolio. This might require a bit of research as I haven’t actually made one before… anyway…

I want to start writing something meaningful again, so I want to talk about Far Cry 2. For those of you who don’t know, Far Cry 2 is a “revolutionary” new FPS set in the deserts of Africa. Don’t think that because you have played FarCry that you know what the game is like. Cause you don’t. At all. Sure, it is a game designed to be played, and it is first person, but apart from that, everything is different. It isn’t even developed in the same country (Canadian eh?).

That rant aside, let’s get to the meat. Upon first playing the game, you sit through a 5-minute long car ride with an African taxi driver, who gives you the whole run-down of the political situation within the area you have flown into. This in itself was a very poor design idea, as tells the player, rather than letting them find out for themselves. After finally getting out of the jeep, you find yourself losing consciousness to a screen with a mucus-looking border. Malaria of course! What is more realistic than annoying missions to get meds just so you can continue to play the game!? *cough*

The story doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. You take missions from the two different political parties who are in a war, and become a “left-hand lackey” to both of them, well known for your ability to do anything your asked, but as soon as you leave the building every person within sight shoots at you. Actually, more like every NPC in the game was told your exact position, and jumps in to a jeep to track you down and try and kill you. It is because of this uhm… “interesting” design feature I have only completed the missions to 50%. And no more. I refuse to believe that getting into a vehicle will automatically attract 1 – 4 jeeps of 2 – 3 Africans who want to skin me alive. From the political party I am meant to be helping out.

Aside from my complaints about story, technical aspects of the game are lacking as well. Your character has little-to-no direction other than a cross on a “map” (Which reminds me of the GPS-map-thingo from Babylon-AD) unless you exit to the menu, where your objectives are “clearly” marked. The graphics in the game resemble most FPS games of this era, running slightly better on my system than other games (Crysis). This leads me to believe that either the engine is well made (Hmm… unlikely with the amount of crashes, bugs, forum posts and QQ’s about how buggy the thing is, and my inability to play on DX10 mode due to well… insects) or that the game doesn’t look as good as you first think. Then again, I couldn’t play in DX10 mode because of bugs.

Other annoying side-notes are the voice acting of the characters, which sounds like the programming team after an all-nighter agreed to do the voices for an extra $20, and the large travelling distances between missions. As a first person shooter, Far Cry 2 does the standard well. You aim, you fire, things die. But as a free-form sandbox game, it fails in all regards. Annoying guard posts which are impossible to pass without picking up 2 trucks of baddies following you, malaria missions purely to flesh out game time, and NPCs too stupid to realise you are on their side.

Overall, I would probly rate this game a 6 / 10. It is playable, but don’t take it serious. You will get pissed and punch your monitor. *Thinks* Actually, if you need a new monitor, play it on hard!

Andrew

Is Life Still There?

Alright, now I understand the frustration of such a long period between updates, and yes, I may even feel your frustration, but there is a force much more sinister causing my actions (Or lack thereof). What force is this you may ask? Procrastination. Also World of Warcraft. Yes, it is the complete fault of procrastination and Blizzard that I have not blogged in ages, but here I am starting again.

My studies are going quite well, and now I am well into my third semester of a six semester course. I have a GPA of only 4.625 but a few more 5’s could change that pretty drastically. I would say that assignments have been the reason I have not updated my blog, but that would be lying as the assignments have been pretty light on, and the workload quite manageable. Along with blogging more regularly, I want to continue working on my portfolio website as that is something which I really want to keep up with and have around sooner rather than later. If you would like a look at the beta version I have at the moment, feel free to check it out here but please don’t be harsh.

As for something that has been going around and around in my head, I believe I am starting to think more philosophically due to some lecture material by Jane Turner and just general abundance of time to “Think”. I have started work on another webpage which will promote people to be open with information, and to really ponder some of those heavy questions. I am a Christian so my way of thinking might be completely different to some people, but I believe looking at the world in different ways is the only way to begin to understand how things around you change your world.

As for a gaming update: World of Warcraft. Yeah, I know, its old, but it is hella fun. I have only recently hit the level cap and so much more has opened up for me. My character is growing and so is my understanding of human interaction in a game world. Other games I have been playing are limited, but I have been spending some time with Need for Speed: Pro Street as I recently acquired a Logitech Dual Action gamepad.

Pro Street is the weakest Need For Speed game I have played in a number of years, possibly since Underground 2. It has moved from the “Free roam” mode to a new “set races and tracks” aesthetic. There are no police, no real opposition, and hardly any cut-scenes. If it weren’t for the graphics and compatibility with my gamepad I don’t think I would have played past the first two or three races. The graphics are amazing and the control of the cars is good. The selection of vehicles is similar to Carbon where you can select older “Muscle” cars or newer cars, both of which have their advantages.

Something else which has been keeping me occupied is my new phone. I had a Motorola V3X which I picked up second hand for a little over $100, and I truly loathed that phone. After my girlfriend got a Nokia 7500 off eBay, I decided it was my turn, so after some quick shopping around I found that I could get a Nokia 6110 Navigator with built in GPS for a little over $500 (and convinced mum to pay for most of it). I love my little phone, and it can even tell me where to go. The only thing I find slightly annoying is the buttons, as they are just a wee-tad too small for my fingers. As for features, it has everything except Wireless LAN, which is ok by me since I have my laptop. It would have been cool blogging from the mobile, but at least I won’t get lost and die somewhere ’cause I’m too lazy to read a “RL* Map”.

In other news, not much is happening in my life at the moment, I am spending lots of time with my girlfriend and playing plenty of games. Uni is taking a small chunk of my time, which is ok, cause eventually I will be rich cause of it! Hope to talk to you again soon!

Peace Out,
Andrew

Resting and Results

Once again I haven’t been blogging for a while, but that doesn’t mean I have been doing nothing. For the most part I have been finishing up uni for the year, and taking a seriously needed break from everything. My results were quite acceptable, accomplishing a 4, two 5’s and a 6 for my favourite class.

As for my aforementioned portfolio website, progress is slow. After exams and assignments finished, I began work on a project with some of my friends. We planned on making a Neverwinter Nights 2 module, but progress on that has been really slow too.

About a week ago I purchased Unreal Tournament 3 Collector’s Edition which had an unexpected surprise. On the bonus DVD was about 2 hours or more of video tutorials showing how to make levels in the included editor. I have always wanted to make first person shooter maps as this is my favourite style of game, but I had always found the learning curve too steep without having some form of tutorial. The video tutorials included were perfect. They detailed everything from construction of the map, to filling it with meshes, lights, navigation and effects. I have begun work on some of my own maps and hopefully will get them up on my portfolio page soonish.

Something else exciting coming up is DorLan. Only 1 month to go. Although I am not totally sure on the turnout just yet, I do know that there will be a few people there, and I will be there. That’s the most important thing. Of course the game of choice this time will be Unreal Tournament 3, because it is just awesome. Also, I have someone brining some Gigabit switches which will help, and having 2.5 terabytes of disk can’t hurt.

Anyway, that’s about it for now.
Watch out for Manbearpig!

Andrew