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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 (, etc) about introducing the R18+ to Australian game classifications, you can find it at 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,

Tidings, Abilities and Time

Sitting in my first lecture of “Game Project Design”, I realise that this semester is going to be different. Sure, I have stopped playing World of Warcraft, and sure, I am engaged now, but the main difference is that I WANT to get a higher level of quality from the assessment I produce. The last year of my uni course will be (hopefully) the first year of the rest of my life. Seriously. After I leave university, I wish to secure myself a job within the Game Design industry, and start a family. To do this, I need to have a portfolio of work, I need to have a degree, and I need to put myself out into the world.

So that is my new mindset for this semester. In other news, I have been rather “busy” of the last few weeks, I had a whole week holiday at Bribie Island, which was an awesome time spent with some great friends, and while I was down there I proposed to my girlfriend, and she said yes. Uni has started back this week, which is still interesting, and I have started working (Finally) on my Interactive RPG based online. It will take a while and a lot of learning to complete, but that’s not a big issue.

My blog will most likely be lacking while I am at uni, but then again, I do like procrastination. Another thing I need to change this year. Other goals I am trying to set myself are getting at least a couple of levels developed in either UT3, or whatever engine I am using to develop the game for my uni course. My website is slowly coming closer to the way I want it, and soon I will most likely sit down for a few hours and finish it. Stay tuned.

That is about all for now, so I will try and keep this updated, but I offer you no assurances.

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…

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!


Current Tidings

Ok guys, Welcome to the new blog. This is pretty much how I want it to be set out.
I will probly still be playing with settings etc as the time passes, because I have made a life-changing decision. I have stopped playing World of Warcraft. For me that is a big step, and as I only made the decision last night, it is still up in the air. I want to not play, because if I don’t play then I will have time and inclination to do heaps of other stuff. Like uni and my portfolio. Hopefully.
Anyway, stay tuned for more updates (in more frequency than usual) and keep on playing!