Friday, 26 December 2008

Game Technology

My first gaming experience was on the Amiga A500 16/32-bit multimedia home/personal computer. It was mainly used for gaming, rather than a personal computer. At the time, its advanced graphics and sound were beneficial and well developed. It was simple to use with the games being stored on floppy disks and gameplay being achieved using the ‘Quickshot’ joystick (right image.) I found this joystick easy and comfortable to use. Ergonomically, the design was well thought out. The joystick consisted of two convenient buttons, simply used with the thumb and index finger which provided efficient gameplay. Although the Amiga A500 was not aesthetically pleasing, its performance was enjoyable.

Playstation 1 and 2 was easy to use from the gamepad as the simple functions of it allowed easier control in games. The gamepad evolved from the NES Controller D-Pad (left image) and used features such as analog, rumble and wireless all of which originated from Nintendo.

Nintendo Wii’s controller is shaped more like a remote control rather than a gamepad to suit the gameplay. It is only a matter of time before a rival company releases a console with similar features.

In terms of appearance, Playstation 2 looks much better than the first, however Playstation 3 looks more pleasing than the second. Companies will continue to release new consoles and their looks will improve. Sony released a slim, better looking Playstation 2 which is half the size of the original.

I think the joystick is dying technology as people have had their time with them and moved on to better inventions. It’s not clear as to whether the game pad is dying technology since there are so many consoles that rely on them for gameplay. However, since Nintendo’s release of the Wii, the remote-like controller might become the next best thing.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Storytelling in Games

Stories, fiction or based on true events are the backbone of movies that determine the success or failure of them.

As for games, a strong storyline doesn’t always necessarily make a better game, there are many aspects that establish whether a game is successful or not, one of which is the game player’s own decision.

On the contrary, Namco’s booming series of ‘Tekken’ uses storylines for the characters with each having their own personal reasons for entering the tournament and competing for the prize. Completion of the game would assume that the particular chosen character won the tournament and their ending is shown, therefore depending on what character is chosen, there are multiple endings.

The ‘Resident Evil’ series by Capcom has become a huge triumph with various games starting from Playstation. The storyline of the T-Virus with zombies allows an action-based gameplay to entertain the player so they can engage with the storyline. If this wasn’t successful, there wouldn’t be a Resident Evil 5 out today.

In some games, the player can create their ‘own’ storyline where there are alternative conclusions and ending sequences. These are influenced by the players’ actions during gameplay, but this can become tedious when the player figures out the different endings and the game stops there. The ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series by Rockstar Games avoids this as the player can continue gameplay between or after completing the missions around the locations. These ‘sandbox’ games allow free roaming around the game to maintain the player’s interest and add to the realism of gameplay.

After contemplating, I feel that having a storyline for games allows the player to connect and feel part of the game. After all, without a story behind it, there wouldn’t be a game.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Games Design

Gameplay relates to how a game acts in response to the player’s control and as a result, how pleasing the whole gameplay is to the individual player.

‘Rockstar Games’ have the market cornered when it comes to the design of their games. Their series of ‘Grand Theft Auto’ has an addictive quality with their clever use of storyline combined with gameplay and graphics. They create aspects of the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ games effectively. For example, their plants and bushes are produced by slotting two flattish planes of leaves together which is clever as the realism of the plants are portrayed. This technique goes unnoticed when walking or driving past the plants.

It is the whole companies’ responsibility to help sell their games, but the games design department has a major role in this for the aesthetic value of the game, but this can sometimes overshadow other important features of a game such as gameplay.

Many companies create video sequences in the middle of gameplay just to boast about their ultra-realistic 3D graphics which end up making the game tedious when the videos drag on. Where is the gameplay in that when the player is is just staring mindlessly at the screen? Some companies forget that people purchase games to play them, not watch.

Use of colour is an important principle with different genres in order to be an effective game to sell to the market group. For example, if the genre was horror, common colours throughout the game would be black, grey, brown and red. Setting the scene is important for the genre of a game. In a horror game, the story is frequently set in dark, secluded, claustrophobic corridors, warehouses, forests etc. In a fantasy game, the scenes are likely to be set in open fields, jungles, sea fronts and large, spacious buildings.

When I play games, it is important for them to have the correct mood set for the relevant genre to create a more realistic effect needing to be achieved by the games designers. Also, there should be a relevant balance between actual gameplay in a game and the aesthetics from game design and ‘Rockstar Games’ have done this successfully with the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Writing About Games

There is always a possibility that reviewers would sound biased towards others due to conflicting interests and ideologies by writing subjectively. Writing about the obvious, heard it before, aspects of a game makes the review become tedious which makes the reader lose interest, hence having no effect on them.

I like the whole concept that New Games Journalism is about the gamer deconstructing the segments of the game and engaging with it to focus on what is important in them in their point of view. The gamer notices and digs deeper into the game so they can relate to the aspects of the game that interests them. They are experiencing the game in their head, not in real life as the situation in the game does not exist; it is a digital world that provides entertainment in the mind of gamers. NGJ allows journalists to write effectively about in-depth meaning and interest of the game, breaking it down to minute details and not just stating the obvious aspects of the game such as the graphics and aesthetic value.

Having an objective ranking system for games is not necessary for sales as gamers are likely to stand by their subjective views when purchasing a game. Besides, how can an objective ranking system work when the “facts” could be misleading due to subjective opinion? For example, one person may state that a game has faster game play. Fair enough. But another person can disagree because they have experienced games that have had an even faster game play than the game being reviewed.

As for my own writing, I try to value objectively and subjectively equally in all fairness so I review the world more reasonably with some opinion and belief rather than taking a side and failing to notice some important things in the way things actually are.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

History of Video Games: 2000's - the future

In the past, video games caught the attention of gamers by a simple but effective structure in the storyline, characters and technique to playing the game. ‘Tetris’ proved to have an addictive quality to it in 1985 due to the simplicity of the game play which maintained the player’s attention. Realism in gaming is the most common trend of development from previous computer games along with interesting storylines to capture the gamers’ attention.

When the first games with smoother game play, 3D graphics and digitalized images of actors for characters were released, this became a major breakthrough for the gaming industry which developed to remarkable realism in games we see today. Such examples are ‘Mortal Kombat’ and ‘Street Fighter II.’

The industry faces the rising demands of consumer’s expectations for smooth, quick motion graphics and movement along with amazing realism. Companies are under pressure to make their games unique with a competitive edge to make sure their rivals do not ‘win’ their current and potential markets. Reviews from serious gamers can affect the sales of games as some people rely purely on reviews when making a decision about purchasing a game instead of experiencing the game first hand. More negative reviews may lose potential buyers, therefore leading to poor sales.

Introducing virtual reality games with astounding realism is what I ideally want from gaming in the future and this probably is also expected from consumer demands. Tournament games and missions where a group of people can play in a virtual world would be a new, diverse step in gaming. The game would be played by wearing sensors to capture movement and simple headgear to view the virtual world as though the player’s are in a real environment. This could prove to be a success as the ‘Nintendo Wii’ has shown with the early stages of this development. Being able to play one of my favourite combat games ‘Tekken’ in a virtual world would be an amazing experience, taking gaming to a new level.

History of Video Games 1980's-1990's

In 1981 ‘Donkey Kong’ and the character “Mario” is introduced which proved to be a successful game from industry giant Miyamoto. Rival company Nintendo releases 8-bit system in 1984 called ‘The Famicom’ home console which becomes popular with gamers. Shortly after, in 1985 ‘Tetris’ is developed by mathematician Alexey Pajitnov. The game has a simple aim of connecting blocks with various levels and this spark of genius gave ‘Tetris’ an addictive quality to it. NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) is released in 1986 and the developed impressive qualities become popular with American gamers.

A different approach was considered for game play with ‘Sim City’ by the publisher Will Wright in 1989. This game allows users to create and run a city. By 1991, ‘Street Fighter II’ becomes a big success with gamers due to its breakthrough in the fighting genre from its smooth animation and quick complex controls which is a significant development and a step forward to realism and maintaining the gamers’ attention while playing the game.

In 1992, ‘Mortal Kombat’ used digitalized images of real actors; however controversy arose over with the contents of bloody violence hence leading to the introduction of age ratings for games in 1994. Also, Sony releases Playstation that played games from CD ROMs. In 1996, the Nintendo 64 was launched. Unlike Sony’s Playstation, the console had lack of CD technology but it offered 3D games such as Mario 64. This introduction of 3D games has allowed the leap forward and development of amazingly realistic 3D games we see today.

By 1998 Nintendo releases virtual pets and the Sega Dreamcast was released in 1999 with a built in 56 Kbps modem that allowed online play. Popular Science magazine stated that the Sega Dreamcast is “one of the most important and innovative product of 1999.” This advance in technology allowed gamers to play with people around the world.

Between 1980 and 1990, the industry grew into the home with consoles. By the end of this period, the companies in the gaming industry continued to grow and meet consumer demands by introducing 3D games and online game playing along with improvements in technology.

‘Street Fighter’ and ‘Tekken 3’ was definitely the highlight of gaming in my childhood; I don’t remember playing better quality and more addictive games.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

History of Video Games 1950's-1970's

A.S Douglas created the first graphical computer game of ‘Tic-Tac-Toe,’ programmed in 1952 in his PhD dissertation about Human-Computer interaction at the University of Cambridge. In 1958, engineer William A. Higginbotham invented the interactive computer game ‘Tennis for Two.’ He had previously helped to build the first atom bomb. Higginbotham wanted to develop an interesting exhibit that engages people and entertains, instead of boring them. In 1962, Steve Russell, a computer programmer from MIT created ‘Spacewar!’ which was the first game intended for computer use. Based on ‘Spacewar!’ in 1971, Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of Atari, created the first coin-operated arcade game called ‘Computer Space.’ However, this turned out to be unsuccessful due to the complexity of the controls, therefore ‘Pong,’ invented in 1972 by Atari was the first commercially successful coin-operated video game. A home version of ‘Pong’ was released in 1974 which received a high number of sales. ‘Death Race,’ an arcade game created in 1976, where pedestrian zombies were hit by a car created one of the first controversies over violence in a video game.

The first game I played was ‘Street Fighter’ on the Amiga which used a basic joystick.

The most recent games I played were ‘Tekken 5’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ on Playstation 2. The clever storylines ‘Namco’ created for each character, their fighting techniques and personalities maintained my interest in all the Tekken games.

My fascination in video games continued to grow as companies developed their games to appear more appealing with the graphics gradually improving over the years. My interest with video games was not a phase of interest; it became an addiction, where I could escape reality and enter a different world of gaming.