Why am I here?

Why am I here? Well that certainly is the question. I guess I had to have made up my mind at some point, I certainly wasn’t born with the desire to make games.

I always enjoyed playing video games as a kid. I absolutely loved games like Midtown Madness 3 and Lego star warsBut I never wanted to make them when I was a kid. I didn’t even care how they were made, let alone want to learn. I just thought they popped into existence, like dinner or cartoons on TV. My attitude pretty much continued this way until my first year of high school. It was at this point in my life that a my new friend introduced me to a whole new world of video game. Minecraft.  It was because of this game that I gained interest in the creators of video games. Realising that Minecraft had been made by only one man, Markus Persson or Notch, made me think that I could do that too. So I decided I wanted to be a games programmer and make games like Notch.

This was a ludicrous dream, I didn’t realise how long it took to make the game, or that his story was a very rare solo success. But I had made up my mind. So this mindset continued through most of high school. I realised that I had actual skill in making games, when following instructions with a large amount of hand holding when it came to coding. It wasn’t until I was halfway through year 11 that I changed my goal. This happened when I entered a mentoring program run by my school. I was given the chance to be mentored by a professional in any field I was interested in. Of course, I wanted to be mentored by a games programmer. Sadly, they couldn’t find one close by that was willing. But they were able to find a games designer, Zac Fitzwalter, and asked me if he would do instead. I was fine with that, the guy worked in games, he’d do. After talking with Zac and seeing what he did, I became interested in being a game designer, rather than games programmer.

And so the story arrives here. I am starting my course in games design, with no plans on backing out or changing path any time soon. That’s why I’m here.

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Influences galore

This list is made up of the things that influenced me. A large amount of them are game, but some are song, directors or books. I also put something of my own creation in. This may seem weird, but I have my reasons. I was not influenced by myself (I’m no Kanye), but I was influence by the creation of it. I felt so inspired as I wrote the story. The feeling of pouring myself into it was just exhilarating. It made me want to create stories like it. That could allude to things and never showed the full picture.Some of the things in the list are linked. There’s a collection of puzzle games that I absolutely loved. There’s a few things that all convey a similar emotion. A feeling I can only describe as a helpless scream into the void. There’s some others in there as well, but they all are important influences on where I want to go with my career. You can find the pinterest board HERE to learn more and decide who I am for yourself..

Design elements of TF2

Team Fortress 2 is a very well designed, this is to be hoped for considering it took 9 years to develop. The game appropriately uses affordances when respawning, marking capture points, labelling one way doors and marking the boundaries of outdoor maps. Upon spawning, the player always faces the enemy base, so that they are always properly oriented. Capture points stand out from their surroundings, always being circular, coloured when captured and central to arena spaces. One way doors are marked by a large red octagon with a hand in the centre, representing multiple stop signs at once. And finally TF2 uses affordances to mark the edges of the map by having simple low fences with boring landscapes beyond that signify to the player that it is the boundary.

TF2 cleverly uses constraints to encourage certain patterns of play. It limits the fire rate on certain characters to encourage the play style they are designed for, uses one way doors to limit flow of attack and defence, and has tight paths with many corners to encourage players to fight in arenas around capture points.

With multiple characters in TF2, there is obviously many interesting design choices to make them individual. The Medic’s invulnerability allows for quick charges to take tight, contested spots. However, the graphical component of this helps signify to opposing players of the invulnerability and gives them confidence that it will not last long. Allowing the spy to go invisible to sneak past the front lines then to disguise as another character gives them the ability to use their backstab ability to instantly kill an enemy. However making the invisibility limited by a timer causes haste in the player’s actions, making room for mistakes and panic. Finally, by giving the soldier the ability to rocket jump, he is able to gain a height advantage on the battlefield. However, it does cost the soldier a significant amount of health, requiring him to rely on the medic for support.

TF2 has also made other interesting design choices to ease the flow of combat and to not overwhelm new players. They designers have chosen to add a highlight to the edges of every player model so that they do not blend into the background when moving around the maps. They also made sure every character had a very distinct silhouette so that players could easily identify what they were facing.

Critical vs Mainstream Games writing

The two articles I have chose are ‘To Each and Every Star: The Painful Worlds of The Chinese Room’ from Paste magazine and ‘Dear Esther: A Haunting Indie Story Worth Listening To’ from Game Informer.

 

The article from Game Informer, written by Tim Turi, was created for a much more casual audience. It took the structure of a review but did delve slightly into the meaning of the game, rather than what the game is. Turi talked about the social purpose of Dear Esther and how he believed that every player takes away a different experience, which in turn creates discussion. He states that the story is written to purposefully encourage ‘water cooler talk’. This is an interesting but simple way to see Dear Esther, the game goes to much deeper levels then this review is showing.

 

The article from Paper magazine, written by Javy Gwaltney, on the other hand is targeted towards a more invested audience. It delves much deeper into the meaning of Dear Esther, talking about the inner grief that both the player and the narrator feel. Gwaltney believes Dear Esther is not only about piecing the story of the narrator together, while interesting, but is about expressing and venting a personal grief. He says the game is best left as “an unsettling howl of grief into the sea wind” and that the real ghosts are not the ones on the island but the things that we’ve done and have been done to us. While this article doesn’t cover all parts of Dear Esther, it does make interesting points about the grief in the game and how it makes you feel apart of it. It goes much deeper than the previously mentioned article, making it more useful to me as a game designer.
The article by Javy Gwaltney gives some insight to how games can make the player project themselves on the player. However, a video by the YouTube channel ‘Innuendo studios’, which can be found here, gives much more details about how the game encourages self-insertion.

Play with toys

The two toys I have chosen are “G.I. Joe Falcon Glider and Viper Glider” and “Barbie loves McDonald’s play set”.

 

Features:

  • G.I. Joe Falcon Glider and Viper Glider
    • Light weight
    • Wings
    • Attachment point for G.I. Joe action figures
    • Allows kids to throw the toy and let it glide for a distance until it lands
  • Barbie loves McDonald’s play set
    • A counter
    • A booth
    • Drink machine
    • Burgers, food trays, milkshake cups, other fast food kitchen items

Some games that could be played with these toys are:

For the G.I. Joe gliders, See how far you can make the glider go without touching the ground. Or Hit a target with the glider.

For the Barbie set, Role playing the fast food service for Barbie and Ken, barbie can be both customer or worker in the roleplay.

The two toys are quite simple and were not too difficult to design forms of play for. However, the “barbie loves McDonalds” set was more difficult because there is not a specific goal that can be described for the play, only roleplaying. The gliders were much easier to design play for because they have a random element in their flight, which can be manipulated into a competition.

Looking into the crystal ball

Future trends are very difficult things to predict. With new things being introduced and old trends returning,  its confusing. Games in particular seem to be heading towards online streaming of video games, called Cloud Gaming. This is the ability to stream games from a server to your computer or other device, allowing you to play the game at optimum running speeds without needing the expensive parts, like watching netflix without buying the movies/tv shows or owning an actual blu ray player. Places like Playstation Now and NVIDIA GeForce Now already offer the ability to stream certain games to your home. There have been others in the past, such as OnLive and Gaikai, that have recently shut down. While this may appear to be a bad thing, they were both purchased by Sony before their closing. This is a good evidence that cloud gaming will become a large service soon. Currently, however, it is difficult to make the service wide spread with the limitations of internet speed. ESPECIALLY IN AUSTRALIA!

Anyway, Of course there are ups and downs to this possible trend. It would be great for faster spreading games, allowing people to play high end requirement games on macbooks (LOL). It would allow a faster increase in graphical features for games, having only high end machines running all game. But it would almost entirely destroy the modding community. A mod for those who do not know is a modification of an original game, creating a range from whole new games to simple alterations, like the elephant below. But back to the point. With the introduction of cloud gaming there would be a lot less user created content for games that don’t specifically create functions to allow it, and spreading mods would become even haredr because of the limiting platform. And how could we live without our precious mods?

But as a game designer, I might have to be ready for any unforeseen ways that cloud gaming could affect games development or any other possible future trend for that matter. But since I lack the help of Doctor Emmett Brown, I will have to just be flexible and ready to adapt to what changes will come.

‘Gone Home: Console Edition review’ – thoughts

Gone Home: Console Edition review

I found this article by going to the metacritic website. On the front page about mid way down they have a ‘Top games’ list sorted by either critic score or user score. There at the top of the list was a game that I love. Gone Home. Opening the Gone Home page brought me to the list of reviews that gave it an average of 90. The highest of these review gave a brief description about art taking mundane things and giving them meaning. I totally agreed, so I read.

The article is a simple review. It doesn’t get all upset about the lack of ‘gameplay’ in the game or how the game has been named a walking simulator. But instead spoke about the experience. Mentioning at multiple points that it is more like reading a book than it is like playing a game. Its interesting to read reviews like this because they bring our attention back to our limited understanding of what ‘art’ is. We think art is a painting worthy of a museum, or a song to be sung on a stage. Not a game. It is this limited understanding and limiting definition that restricts more beautiful games like Gone Home being created. It is exactly what’s holding the games industry from becoming a fully recognised art form. The definition of art needs to change, because the world’s emptier when it stays still.

Intriguing interests

I love almost every form of creative media. Film, games, books, music, paintings/drawings all bring all bring emotion, whether that’s happiness, sadness, confusion, love, love lost, or so on and so forth. Some particular media that I enjoy have something very specific in common. Films like: Inception, Shutter Island, Silence of the Lambs, and The Martian. Songs like; Alt-J’s ‘Interlude 1(Ripe and Ruin)’ or Bright Eyes ‘Poison Oak’. Games like Portal for its ARG(Alternate Reality Game) elements or FEZ for its binary code puzzles. Books like Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’. I like all these because they require thought, they reward higher order thinking.

Both Inception and Shutter island don’t truly tell you what’s happening till the end, when all your work to pay attention pays of and the whole film makes sense at once. Silence of the lambs really gives depth to the thoughts of a mad man. The Martian compliments those who can understand the science and maths. The Road leaves a lot for the reader to discover by dropping hints and only ever eluding. Ripe and Ruin tells the story of a woman with OCD, but only ever infer through describing her actions. Poison Oak tells the story of a lost love, it describes drug abuse death without mentioning either and through the description of the poem revealing the story and bringing more emotion because of the effort put in. Portal was updated over the course of 10 days in 2010 to implement an ARG. This arg would lead to the eventual announcement of Portal 2, giving the players excitement and satisfaction for uncovering the announcement themselves. FEZ has many puzzles in it, but one of the most interesting is the binary puzzle, which required the player to convert a sequence of flashing lights into 1’s and 0’s then into Hexadecimal and from there into ASCII. This then gave the player a code which needed to be entered into the game in a certain location, giving them a secret reward.


It’s the way that these media delay the satisfaction and make the consumer work for it that makes the experience so satisfying and memorable. Creating almost secret in jokes within themselves to reward those who search for them. I absolutely love moments like these because of the way they make an emotion so much more powerful and meaningful. I would love to be able to one day put something like this into the games I create, to give the people who follow me the satisfaction that I was able to receive.