28 March 2014

Influence

Is influence attractive in narrative?
Or does influence lead to narrative?

Where do they meet?

Mystery and unravelling

Most people hate the idea of spoiling other forms of media like film by knowing what will happen next - doesn't giving this control to the player reduce the impact by removing surprise in the same manner?

So we substitute the outcome of choice, with the types of choices that will be presented.

Am I really more engaged with Mass Effect because it's "my story" - or because the world is interesting and well written. Does the ability to see different endings or event outcomes really add anything beyond novelty? Is this really the meaning of interaction in games?

Design Experiment.
Design something where the narrative plays out as the writer imagined it - but handle interruption and choice by the player only if/when they desire. Don't throw decisions in their face - force them to interrupt.

2 January 2013

Taste #10 - Real Lives 2010

Real Lives 2010

Developer: Educational Simulations
Publisher: Educational Simulations
Released: August 2009
Time played: 60 minutes

Notes:


Life #1:

0 years old
  • I was born a girl in the city of Qaraghandy in Kazakhstan.
  • My parents have named me Salieva. My surname is Arlov.
  • My mother, Shara, is 27 and my father, Babur, is 26.
  • I have no brothers or sisters.
  • My mother is now working as a trader of used goods.
1 year old
  • Got my first tooth at the age of 8 months.
  • Learned to crawl at the age of 8 months.
  • Learned to walk at the age of 14 months.
  • Sister Nila born.
2 years old
  • I've had measles.
  • My mother is now working as a part-time handicraft worker.

24 November 2012

Taste #9 - Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis (PC)

Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis

Developer: Frogwares
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Released: April 2008
Time played: 90 minutes

Notes:
  • Original title is "Sherlock Holmes versus Arsène Lupin". Simpler "Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis" title was chosen for the US and 'some parts of England' release according to WP.

Observations:

  • Runs nicely at high resolution in Win 7 64 bit without any problems. Textures generally sharp, world a little bare and rigid.

  • Voice acting acceptable, strange pronunciation of a few words including a reference to the Medici.

  • Directed to go get a hansom. No idea what it is, no hints given. Turns out it refers to horse drawn carriages of the time (1800s). They could of at least said hansom cab surely? Maybe this is assumed knowledge from either previous games or the source text.

  • Puzzles are solved through a mixture of pixel hunting and reasoning. Asks players to perform some basic deductions and piece together clues in order to provide key word answers which must be typed. Surprising to see a modern game take this approach but it serves the genre well and forces the player to engage rather than just going through the motions and clicking everything they find.

  • Extensive in-built hint system is also provided. Clues can be revealed slowly with more subtle hints initially. A great idea in the age of the internet where designers must assume people will  search for walk through guides rather than bang head against wall until solving puzzles. The balanced approach here is to require engagement for progression but provide unrestricted tools to remove road blocks. It is then up to the player to determine how long to spend trying to solve puzzles before seeking help.

  • Worth another look at some stage. Slow and a little dry, but an enjoyable distraction.

14 November 2012

Taste #8 - Gish (PC)

Gish

Developer: Cryptic Sea
Publisher: Chronic Logic, Stardock, Steam
Released: May 2004
Time played: 20 minutes

Notes:
  • Indie title co-created by Edmund McMillen who went on to create Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac and others.



Observations

  • Bland. Some basic platform mechanics and physics combined to create a simple platform/puzzle game.

  • Controls are simple with 4 direction buttons, buttons to turn sticky/slick/heavy, and a jump button. Activating these abilities took some getting used to, maybe partly because I'm so used to playing this kind of game with a gamepad rather than keyboard.

  • The theme and art design really didn't appeal to me. Very bland palette and simply animation. Some fluidity in the movement of Gish himself, but the world is very lifeless.

  • Couldn't keep going passed the first few levels.

  • Interesting contrast with Super Meat Boy which I've played for 2 or 3 hours. I found the controls of that game much more comfortable and direct, and although it is another example of simple art design the presentation had more weight and character. I can see links between these games though, and it's interesting to see where a now well respected designer started. Good luck to him.

11 November 2012

Taste #7 - Shining Force Neo (PS2)

Shining Force Neo

Developers: Neverland and Amusement Vision
Publisher: Sega
Released: October 2005 (NA)
Time played: 90 minutes



Observations:

  • Voice acting is ordinary, but not excruciating. The game is apparently known for extremely bad voice acting in this English release.

  • I've never played a Shining Force game until now, despite a strong connection with early Sega and having access to the original games via various compilations.

  • The game is best described as an action RPG with hack and slash Diablo style combat mechanics.

  • It's a well designed game given the platform constraints. Comes across as quite polished and reasonably stylish.

  • The game shows large outdoor areas and seamlessly transitions to indoor environments without interrupting play. Building roofs fade into transparency as the character enters revealing the building interior. This is impressive, and very rare for a game of this vintage, and probably still not a given some 12 years later. I'm curious about the engine used in this game and whether it was used to power any other games.

  • Story is about young hero returning home, family mystery, protection from ancient power that has re-emerged etc etc. Nothing particularly novel, but competent enough from the looks of things. Mystery and betrayal used to drive things along and retain player interest in the story.

  • Combat mechanics seem simple, but further systems are being introduced as the game progresses. Loot drops from items in the environment as well as enemies.

  • Straightforward but competent real-time action-rpg mechanics make a nice change of pace from obtuse turn based systems iterating on tired decade old ideas.

  • The cut-scenes are well done and very manga-like. There is a bit of a disconnect between the art in these cut-scenes and the art used during the many talking head conversations in game. Differences between in-game character models and pre-rendered cut-scenes is expected but for whatever reason the art used in the conversation talking heads is different again - surely this could have been created to match the cut-scenes?