Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Game Technology

Game consoles used to focus on the technology rather than appearance; but today they focus on both technology AND appearance. Just looking at the Playstation series you can see the radical improvement of the technology and appearance...

Playstation = CD

Playstation 2 = DVD

Playstation 3 =Blu-ray

Recently I have heard that people don’t like the PS3 design... my opinion is that this is absurd! I just love the futuristic, black, slick console; and I am proud of the way that the controller hasn’t changed either, apart from adding analogue sticks and having it wireless- clearly it is good so that is why they haven’t changed it. However I didn’t like the concept idea for the PS3 control... it almost reminds me of the Xbox controller which I just don’t see how it had good ergonomics, I am glad they didn’t stick with the concept. To be honest I don’t understand the design of the Xbox controller, the very first one was massive, and a person of my size- male or female- wouldn’t have a chance of handling it; but to play it, you must be massive with immensely huge hands; and I presume that this is where Microsoft lost a wide variety of their audience, for being portrayed as a “boy’s console”.

I have never really understood what ergonomics was until researching it; now I realise that it is comfort for the consumer. Like the boomerang/wheel concept for the PS3, the design idea was “a more natural shape for a more comfortable feel”; I can imagine it being more comfortable- like a keyboard is designed so the most used letters are in the middle, and therefore you don’t strain your hands (I only just found out that today actually lol). But I do prefer the original PS3 control; although I think it could be due to the fact that it wasn’t released and I’ve never used it- or that it takes me a while to get used to “change”.

All in all my opinion is “don’t judge a book by its cover.... but people still do”, for example- the PS3 is “brick-like” compared to the Xbox; but the PS3 is more technically advance with blu-ray, whereas the Xbox is still using the technology of DVD.

These are just some cool Google images I found for the Playstation series which I like.

Monday, 7 December 2009

An introduction to Art Directon for games

Video game Art Directors cannot get a job in art direction straight away- most of them usually start out as game artists or animators, so they have the skills required to be an Art director. As they gain their skills, they can slowly move up. The job of an Art Director is to be responsible for any visual design of a video game; and is the one who has to attend meetings for the game, visualise what needs to be done, and to create deadlines for the artists and animators, so that they are able to stick to a schedule. They need to have a good background in fine arts and have a good amount of creativity so they are able to visualise how a game will pan out in the end.

Many art directors have to manage a team, with both experienced and amateur artist and designers; being able to cooperate well as a team is essential for any good director- listening to suggestions for the game by the team is taken into account; then the art director selects the best idea and develops it further, adding their own personal inputs.

I think that the role of an art director is essential as he is literally steering the ship in the right direction; without deadlines, motivation or perseverance, could the ship travel without crashing?
If I were to consider becoming an art director I would have to vastly improve my creativity skills and art judgment, as I am not as capable as I would like to be; I am always learning and improving every day. However I don’t think that I would like to have so much power, or that sort of responsibility (it’s not that I am lazy- just I’m not that good) so I would have to turn it down.

(This has been the hardest blog yet! I am glad to have finally done this [:)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Story Telling In Games

I feel that the storyline is absolutely essential to any game. Without a storyline, what is the point of a game in the first place? I think that the more realistic the storyline is, the better and more realistic the game is; for example Halo- it actually does have a pretty in-depth storyline, but the game play is quite generic, a first person shooter, running around blasting the aliens. I feel that it is a very overly hyped game when games like Uncharted, Bio-shock, Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid have taken storytelling to a whole new level- or if it is too easy, it isn’t much of an accomplishment when you finally finish a game. Also the characters in the game are very important too; if you can connect with the character or relate to them, you can become immersed into the game.

“Emotioneering” is a term created by David Freeman, which was to describe a body of over 1000 techniques for making a game emotionally immersive. That is, they evoke, in a player, a wide breadth and depth of emotions. The emotions in the storyline are what integrates a story together; and it can make a game go into a more significant depth, or make it crash and burn. Also originality in a storyline is important; you don’t want to be playing one game one week, and a slightly altered version the next week- diversity is what is desperately needed in games nowadays!

I know I am talking about Eye Pet waaaaayyy too much, and also Little Big Planet; but I am only mentioning these to make a point. These games don't have a storyline per-se, but they show my point of how the character can add the same quality as a good storyline; as well as originality.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Game Design

The one thing that has always puzzled me about the games industry is: how are games designed? Who is the person that is responsible for the idea of one game? What is their inspiration?

Little Big Planet is an excellent example of great game design; it has originality in its gameplay, level design and character design. All imagination and adventure has been brought together in this game, and it is basically up to you what you do with it; and not only that, but you are able to create your own levels and publish them online. In a way, each individual person who creates a level, becomes a games developer. In the actual gameplay mode (and in your own level, maybe), you can clearly tell that it isn’t a realistic place; however the objects on the level are all using materials which actually exist! The main reason I am so fascinated by this game is that the materials in the game, say a ball on an elastic piece of string, the elastic string would react physically as it would in real life.

Just like building a house has a blueprint, so do games. The Games Design Document (GDD) is basically the blueprint of a game; so every single necessary detail put onto the blueprint, will be on the game; but if it isn’t on the blueprint, don’t expect to see it on the game. The GDD is a reference document that all members of the development team will use to find specific information; and to make sure there isn’t an overload of information in the document; they have an Art Bible or Test Plan, holding additional information for the game (which is still as equally important as the GDD).

I think that the most important parts of a game for me is the technology, storyline, realism, attention to detail, and originality of the game. I really can’t stand games where women are practically naked with boobs the size of melons, or guys with weapons so big that it is physically impossible to lift up, or a game that has a ‘flash’ cover up but is basically the same as every other game out there… I could go on and on… It really gets under my skin!

That is why I love games like, Little Big Planet, Eye Pet, Uncharted, Ratchet and Clank, Fallout 3. I don’t believe that I am a ‘girly’ games player, but attention to originality is the key thing for me.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Writing about games- this is a little different though... But Mike said it's ok =]

In the 2009 Game Developers Conference (GDC) there has been a huge debate on what should or shouldn’t be accepted in game production; at the moment the games industry have the upper hand from the critics in the “family values” right. They have been routing for the exclusion of violence, sex and drug abuse in games. "We are in a culture war here. We didn't ask for this--we're just trying to entertain people with a product the public seem to want." Lawrence Walters, an attorney from the free speech and constitutional-rights, has identified that “political correctness” is the new enemy of the games industry. “We can debate all day long whether racist stereotypes or derogatory language is even appropriate in video games, but that's for us to debate, and not for the government to decide". I think that this is true; it is like we are losing our freedom, we are being controlled into what we can and can’t watch, say or do, there was a time like that, but it has been and gone.

It seems to me that we can’t just do what we want to do anymore; we have to also say what others should be doing too. If an incident should occur, they use a scapegoat and guilt it on say, a violent game. It is like blaming a film or type of music on someone’s horrific actions. For example, the teenage pupil who opened fire in his high school, killing two and wounding twelve students. Blaming his actions on the music he listened to (Marilyn Manson) is shifting the responsibility onto the artist, as it is such an unheard act, there is no possible way the child could think of this himself, was it because of bullying? Certainly not.

Would we let the government ban movies with profanity, violence or sex? No, because it will be eliminating almost every movie available. This is the same within games, would the stereotypical gamer want to constantly play a happy little pixy game? No, we want a variety of which we can choose ourselves, because we want to and can.

Monday, 2 November 2009

A History of Computer Games: 2000 - the future

We are currently in the 21st century and a lot has changed- especially for games. Technology has dramatically developed over the years with all aspects of the games industry, including console manufactures and games publishers alike. For example, with the Playstation series, the PS1 used CD’s, PS2 used DVD’s and now the PS3 uses blue ray; each year becoming more able to store a higher amount of information, providing bigger games with greater realism, and even more sophisticated AI.

As well as this advance in technology, games have become far more interactive. From having rumble in the controls, we now have motion control, peripheral such as guitars, drums, steering wheels and so on; and also gesture recognition with cameras such as the Playstation Eye. The most recent game to make use of this feature is the Eye Pet (your own virtual pet) on Playstation 3.

The technology behind this game is mind blowing! One example of this is that when you tickle the tummy of your Eye Pet, sending him to sleep, he has dreams of his past experiences with you since buying the game. This is amazing, because it may only have been a few days since you had started the game, but the Eye Pet is constantly storing footage onto the PS3 in the background so that you can watch yourself interacting with your pet, from previous days when you didn’t even know that the footage was being stored in the first place! (I actually couldn’t believe it the first time I saw this.)

To develop and produce a current generation game, costs around tens of millions of pounds, and even more for consoles exclusive AAA titles, such as Gears of War, Uncharted 2, and soon Gran Turismo 5, which has taken 150 people 4 years to develop than the original Gran Turismo. On the other hand, mobile devices such as the iPhone, games cost less and are allowing small companies to produce games for these on a much lower budget.

Not only is it the pressure of cost, but also competition from the manufactures, publishers and consoles.

PS3 vs Xbox vs Wii. Sony vs Microsoft vs Nintendo.

Microsoft released the Xbox 360 sooner than planned, so as to beat the PS3 into the market; unfortunately this caused problems, such as the “red ring of death”- turning the Xbox 360 into the Xbox 3fixme (heeeheee) and making more costs for Microsoft to fix the consoles.

Today’s games are filled with realism, fun and entertainment for all; but what about tomorrow’s games? I personally think that we will soon enter a new era for games, and that era is 3D! Already I have experienced this at the London Expo games convention; the television itself was 3D capable, but I still had to use 3D glasses. I believe that we will have 3D televisions where there is no need for the glasses. But then what’s next?

Monday, 19 October 2009

History of computer video games: Part 2 1980-1990

The 1980’s began with a significant shift- one that took games out of the arcade and into the comfort of our homes. The gaming industry had started developing games along the lines of which we are now familiar with today.

By the time the 80’s had come along ‘Space Invaders’ had already been brought into the arcades, another addition to the ‘space’ theme that seemed to be reoccurring with games since the introduction of ‘Spacewar’ which originally appeared in 1962.However significantly new genres started to appear, such as ‘Pacman’ – the 80’s maze, ‘Frogger’ – the 81’st, ‘Donkey Kong’ – also in the 81’st, the platform game. Donkey Kong, not only an amazing game itself, had bred a ‘still to date’ legendary character, Mario. He was in ALL the Donkey Kong games, but was known then as ‘Jumper man’.

1983 was here and so was Mario, AND his brother Luigi, in arcades everywhere; and by ’85 the platform video game, developed by Nintendo, was published for the NES, Nintendo Entertainment System, as part of a sequel to the ’83 game of the brothers. Mario himself is now played on all consoles, and has upgraded from 2D into 3D in the year of 1995; but I am sure that we will always remember him as the 2D character from the NES – Nintendo’s own mascot, Mario.

It’s not only genres that have change in the years, but the graphics as well; from being incredibly pixelated in 1950, to almost realistic now, we could argue the fact, whether games are getting better as they improve, or worse! I feel that games are almost getting harder to escape from reality (don’t get me wrong, I think that it is ingenious how people have done this!), as graphics, sound, and complexity are to such a high quality. Whereas in ‘Space Invaders’ or ‘Pacman’, you are able to engage or disconnect yourself, if or when you get bored of the game, simply because they are barely related to real life. Are video games getting better as time goes by? I think so.

Getting of the subject here slightly.

In 1985 there started to be rivalry between arcades and home entertaining systems; it was only until the end of the 80’s that brought in the close of arcade gaming as home entertainment systems exceeded them.

I have just recently downloaded a free app to my iphone, it is called Vampires Live. It is a massively multiplayer online game which has missions, you have to build up your clan and become the strongest. On the app store it actually says “Turn your lowly vampire clan into the most powerful clan in the Vampires Live world!” I found this a massive incentive to do, as I downloaded it for free, I didn’t seem to mind. BUT you need Loyalty points to get anywhere on this, or you could wait almost an hour to get ‘energy points’ (3 minutes 59 seconds = 1 energy points, I have to get 15 energy points so 3.59x15=53.85). So I went to the app store to see how much they where, 60 loyalty points= £2.99, 140 loyalty points= £5.99, and 300 loyalty points= wait for it........................................ £11.99! Foolish me got sucked in, as I needed (wanted desperately) to get “stronger” and spent £2.99. I am still playing it but I am NOT paying for it. That is how they make the money. Free game, expensive points, I’d rather wait an hour thank you.

(This is a link to a cool 1980’s game site, where you can enjoy playing on your old favourites http://www.1980-games.com/us/)