Monday, 31 January 2011

The Ghost of Gaming past

It's not hard to find atrocious games. They're on the Internet, on your consoles - I'm sure you'll probably find one lodged in your ear. You could find Big Rigs tied to a cross somewhere in a rural village, and Ninjabread Man probably shares a New Mexico grave with E.T.

Though it was a considerable waste of time, I somehow managed to watch Gamescrap's epic marathon of Action 52 - the equivalent of taping 52 pieces of shovelware together and jamming them into your NES. Throughout, I arrogantly chuckled to myself, as I could do a far better job and I'm not a coder. Trouble is, Action 52 seemed too bad to actually be real.

Unfortunately - as I mentioned earlier - horrendous games are real and they're hiding under your bed. While I don't enjoy games like Battlefield and Call of Duty, I've tried to stop myself calling them "crap" because I've seen real crap. Battlecruiser 3000 was such an atrociously bad game it actually made me question my career choice.

Everyone knows the feeling - buying a game that looks promising, only for it to be a major disappointment. It's not nice, in fact you could go as far to say it's heartbreaking. Depending on the cost of the title and the interest you had in it, some stings can hurt more than others. Fortunately I haven't been stung too many times by horrible games, mainly thanks to word-of-mouth and gameplay videos hosted on the internet.

It's easy for a studio like Epic Games to create a best-seller because consumers know from products like Unreal Tournament and Gears of War that Epic can make a brilliant game. When it comes to lesser-known titles from smaller developers, the consumer confidence isn't there. With all the rubbish floating about, people stick to the well-known brands. I'm a good example of that - I'll buy Gears of War 3 without hesitation, but I won't pick up a lesser-known title without thorough research beforehand.

I think that's hurting the games industry. Look back to the '83 crash, when people lost confidence and stopped buying games. The Crash was mainly caused by an over saturation of the market with poor-quality games. I don't think we've reached that point yet, but with the rise of "indie" games and the popularity of portable games - it's only a matter of time before the shovelware hits the fan.

Scratch that, just look at the iPhone "App Market" or the Xbox Live "Indie Games" section and you'll see that there's a horde of bad games available at your fingertips. I think I'll start building my fallout shelter now in preparation, and stockpile enough games to last me through to the next-next-gen. Now, where did my copy of Red Alert 2 wander off to...

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Gameplay - the heart of a Computer Game

Gameplay is undoubtedly the most important part of a Video Game. Without it, the visual effects and musical score have no purpose. Gameplay defines a Video Game – it draws players in, and provides a rough basis for what the game is about.

Often, when people talk about Gameplay, they are talking about the rules of the Video Game - what the player can and cannot do, and what challenges await the player. In a similar respect to traditional games and board games, Games with simple but distinctive rules are usually fun, whilst complicated and confusing Games tend to be harder to get into.

For example, Chess has a set of rules that are baffling at first, but relatively simple. However, the rules are solid and work well, and the game has become a very popular one.

When Video/Computer Games first came to be, gameplay was the most important part of the game – since audio and visual effects were basic. Tetris, Pacman and Space Invaders were all innovative in their time.
 As we progress into the modern Video Game, we see the lines blur a little. Sometimes, a game with average or bad gameplay can be saved by brilliant graphics or audio. For example, the PC Game ‘Crysis’ became well-known for its stunning graphics, not its game play.

Good Gameplay can be a strong selling point in the modern Video Game market, with ‘unique’ Gameplay being a strong buzz-word. Games like ‘Portal’ have gained a large following for ‘unique’ Gameplay. Others - notably the ‘Call of Duty’ series – have come under fire for sticking to a familiar and popular formula. The latest Call of Duty game has fluid and enjoyable gameplay, but for many it is just too familiar.

Genres within Video Games are defined by Gameplay more than anything else. The differences between Metro 2033 and Rainbow Six: Vegas are mostly visual – the gameplay is roughly the same. However, the gameplay differences between Command & Conquer and Oblivion are monumental.

Gameplay is fundamental in a game’s design. The interface, controls and environments need to be tailored towards its core rules. A mission for a First Person Shooter game is approached differently to a Real Time Strategy game, for example. The focus of a shooter is generally to guide the player around a map, presenting them with obstacles to overcome. A strategy game usually provides the player with a large area of space to develop their army, and a clear set of objectives to achieve.

Smooth, Fluid Gameplay is something I love in a Video Game. Games that feel clunky or sluggish break the immersion and make me completely aware that I am pointing an actor around a map. Some games, for example Aliens Versus Predator, have a weighted feel to them – but this is a visual effect, the core gameplay is still fluid.

A notable example of a game I felt was ‘sluggish’ was the recent Battlefield: Bad Company 2. I can’t comment on whether that is a brilliant game or not – there are some who say it is – but I was instantly put off by the feel of the characters movement.

Whilst reading through the provided links, I found a quote which really made sense to me: “Many game developers are more into the technology than the game”.

Ever since Video Games left the basement and became a business, they've been stretched to fit a wider market. While Gameplay is still a focus of modern Video Games, sometimes it can be overshadowed by glossy new technology. 

Thursday, 20 January 2011

More Work & Another New Vegas rant

So I'd been in the labs since 10am working on a 3D project, and when I got home I decided to kick back with an hour of Xbox before deciding what's next on the agenda. I thought "Ooh, I'll play New Vegas and listen to that new album I bought."

20 minutes later, and the album is still playing. But Fallout New Vegas is not.

I finally found the last clue to unravel the mystery of a certain quest. I was thrilled, I'd found out the disturbing reality of where Boone's wife had gone. I went confront the culprit. When I talked to her, there was no dialogue option about the disappearance, and no way of shoving the obvious evidence in her face. Instead, I went straight to Boone. He shot her, end of quest.

All of the immersion drained straight away. I'd found the evidence, and all it did was trigger the end of the quest with a casual murder. I knew that Boone's wife wasn't dead, in fact she was alive. I wanted him to go and interrogate the culprit, triggering a search/rescue quest. At the very least, I wanted to know why the culprit did it.

It seems all I seem to do in New Vegas is ponder about murdering people and complete lukewarm quests. I might just start playing Fallout 3 instead. After all, that game sucked me in for 8 months, New Vegas lost me after two weeks.

Ah well, at least the album is good. It's The Hymn of a Broken Man by Times of Grace. It's the collaboration between legendary producer Adam Dutkiewicz and Jesse Leach (one of my favourite vocalists of all time), so it was an instant buy for me. It's a great album, the lyrics are well thought-out and the music is melodic and upbeat at the same time. My Facebook is literally flooded with quotes from the album by my friends, I'm regretting introducing them to the album :)

On a less fanatical note, here is an update on my work;

A little speedpaint I did to try and get better at Photoshop painting. 

Another Practice Painting, I chose to paint one of my favourite pieces of Album art.

The humble beginnings of my 3D transit van, after 2 days of work. I'm trying to work faster (smarter) with it, as I'm going to need to get up to industry speed. I'll post an update when it's father along.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Start of Term 2

I'm excited to get back into the work flow again after the rather uneventful Christmas break. Just before we broke up for Christmas we had our reviews,  and the thing I took away from that was that I needed to produce more work. So, I've decided to do more practice/personal work and I'm trying to better manage my time. After all, I can spent hours just flicking through Wikipedia reading about random historical things.

I've been focusing on what I'd consider to be my weaknesses in 2D and 3D. For Visual Design, I've chosen to focus on Textures, 2-Point Perspective and Digital Painting. I can do Textures and 2-Point comfortably, but I need to get more adapt at them. Digi-Painting is something I'd like to be able to do, but definitely need lots more practice. As for 3D, I'm focusing on UV's and Texturing. I can confidently model, but texturing is a nightmare for me.

I spent this afternoon doing a little practice with Photoshop, thought I'd start with something familiar;
It took about 2 hours, and it's not the prettiest looking thing - but I feel it's a definite improvement on my previous work in Photoshop.

I've got a 3D piece that needs a little tweaking before I can call it done, so I'll post that when it's done. Anyway, going to call this a post, if anything interesting happens I'll post it up. Otherwise, I'll be back in a few days, hopefully with some more practices to show. 

Oh, and just for laughs I did a drawing of Dr. Weird too;



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