Thursday, 19 November 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2: 'No Russian'

CoD 'No Russian' Mission

Following on from the talk we had with Chris today, the clip of the ‘No Russian’ mission from ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ where an undercover detective, pretending to be a terrorist in Moscow airport really stood out. The detective must work with real terrorists and shoot innocent civilians in an attack or blow his cover and be shot himself. This controversial mission has been banned from various countries from its immoral and shocking content.

Before the mission starts, a “Disturbing Content Notice” is displayed warning players that they may find the mission offensive, therefore they have the option to skip the mission at any time.

The mission is there because Activision chose a brave step to publish this and went out of the boundaries that other games have stayed within. The mission is described as ‘sickening and disturbing,’ but isn’t that the whole point? The gamer is supposed to be hesitant when pulling the trigger to understand the character’s situation and understand what they are feeling.

I don’t understand what the big deal is about when other games such as Grand Theft Auto contain unethical content as innocent civilians also die due to your actions in some missions such as the bank robbery. After all, there’s also an endless list of movies that we see unethical behaviour in.

It depends on the individual player’s moral beliefs and mentality to come to the conclusion of whether this is wrong in a game or not. The game is meant for mature adults and at the end of the day, playing the game, causes no harm to anyone physically; it’s just informing us of what’s happening in this world.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

This is just the beginning...

It’s incredible how fast this year has gone by, maybe because it isn’t a “full” year but overall I have enjoyed the first year with the course, the people I have met and learning new skills. My confidence has increased a lot in this year compared to my college days. I guess university changes part of who you are and provides experience to find yourself.

I particularly enjoyed the experiences I have encountered. I now know you have to go out there in the world and find what influences you to be creative. Books and pictures are not as useful as experiencing places first hand. Stepping out of the university boundaries would allow us to expand our horizons and drive our innovative ideas and in the next two years, hard work, passion and determination will be the key to success.

I don’t think we did enough traditional art in the first year of this course as technology has once again taken over. So introducing more traditional art in the second year would be a useful idea as there is a key trend of traditional art skills required in the gaming industry. This practice will have a domino effect with the rest of the work. If the skills in traditional art are improved, then the 3D work and digital paint will flourish.

In 3 Years Time?

By the end of this course, I really hope to get a job in either games or the film industry (preferably games) and I will do whatever it takes to get there. One thing I hate is giving up and I won’t be doing that any time soon.

I deliberate what I’ve been taught and apply it to my own learning processes. When I first started using 3D Max at the beginning of the year, like many others, I hadn’t a clue what to do but then I used what I had been taught to explore the program and now I know how to use the program effectively straight from trial and error and I hope to do this with all my work in the next 2 years.

In order to get where you want to be, you have to adapt to the needs of the industry by following the key qualifications and requirements from an early stage of learning.

I am a keen person with problem solving. If a problem occurs, I think about a solution to solve it rather than leave the problem to inflate, which I do when critiquing others and my own work.

Life Changing or Career Building?

Liberal arts colleges mould students to relate to general knowledge and develop the student’s rational thought and intellectual capabilities. To be honest, I think liberal arts colleges are there to give students common sense and logic. A degree is almost like a guide into the gaming industry, a rather useful one but you don’t necessarily need a one to obtain the qualities needed for the gaming industry. Both do provide a valid and fulfilling experience to students in their own way but I have only gained experienced from learning through a degree since I haven’t attended any liberal arts colleges.

Looking at job vacancies for game companies, in order to get the job, I discovered a key trend in the requirements. The applicant must have experience and logic. The words: ‘passion, enthusiasm, problem solving, team working and work within deadlines’ appeared in almost every job requirements.

Evan Hirsch, head of Acme Animotion Group (Hoboken, NJ), a firm specializing in providing 3D design and support for industrial design and animations states: "I want to see the basics: sketching, portfolio examples that show me how the student thinks and understands light, form, and function. I don't want to see a lot of slick computer graphics that don't show me anything; I'm after good fundamental skills."

There is no right answer for this one; in the end, it all depends on the individual applying for the job. It is down to their passionate work, motivation and drive that determine whether they qualify for the industry.

Sound for Games

Nowadays, without sound, there would be no game. Well, there would, but it would be a somewhat crap game. I know there are games that are still epic when played without sound like ‘Tetris,’ but with high consumer expectations and progression of technology, sound is a very important aspect to games that determine their overall experience.

Sound used in ‘Tekken’ makes each character unique to give them personality and background. In ‘Tekken Tag,’ the character named ‘Unknown’ has a stage soundtrack that suits her well. This character is under the control of an evil spirit in the form of a wolf and the composed music fits perfectly.

‘Unknown’ stage soundtrack:

An example of a game where the sound effects and music have a lasting effect on the player is in ‘Left 4 Dead.’ As you shoot the infected in this first hand player game, you may encounter a witch and the game warns you when you are approaching her with creepy music that becomes louder as you get closer. And what really created the eerie atmosphere is the disturbing witch’s crying sound effect with the backing music. Sound is a warning of on-coming danger in this game and creates tension. If the game is played on mute your character is as good as dead.

Left 4 Dead Witch:

Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards composition 'Good Times' signalled the start of the take-off of hip hop music, and the song contributed to the success of the Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight,’ the first-ever hip hop record. It was this same song, with Edwards’ catchy bassline that influenced Queen's John Deacon to write the hit, ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ in 1980. ‘Good Times’ is a prominent recording but I can’t say if it was the most influential recording of the 20th Century since I haven’t heard enough ‘influential’ music in that time to judge.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Game Engines

Ok this is a rather tedious blog and I have no idea how to make it interesting but here it is...

A game engine is the software intended to create and develop video games. With game engines, functions such as rendering for 2D or 3D graphics and collision detection are used.
Furthermore, game engines also provide the use of: animation, sound, networking scripting, artificial intelligence and memory management all of which are needed to make the game as realistic as possible.

Additive and subtractive environments relates to the way which the 3D world in games are created. Where the player can interact with the surroundings in a game, the ‘world’ is everything which the player can see and the type of environment determines what is outside of the world.

Additive environments consist of a void, empty area. When an element is created such as a room, a space within the void is sealed off to create the area for the room. This may be a hollow cube shape. In order to create landscape with the sky, the terrain, buildings and trees are designed first then the scene is surrounded by a ‘skybox’ which is a large hollow box with the inside showing the sky. The hollow shapes must keep the void out as the world and void must be separated. A hole in the world is a “leak.”

The 3D engine ‘LithTech’ used additive environments to create ‘Alien vs. Predator.’

In a subtractive environment, there is no void. Instead, before a world is created, there is only an infinite solid. The world is created by subtracting sections from the infinite solid, thus creating hollow spaces for the player to exist in. There are less likely to be leaks in the world this way.

The additive environment is easier to manipulate so some designers may work their way around the subtractive style of editing by subtracting a large cube, for example, then creating a void in the middle of the large cube (infinite solid) then working in the middle of the (fake) void.

The 3D engine ‘The Unreal Engine’ uses subtractive environment which created ‘Unreal Tournament and Deus Ex.’

An advantage into buying proprietary technology is that it is a way of gaining more income. For example, Unreal Engine 3 has given a licensing agreement to EA games. However, the disadvantage to this is that EA plans to modify the engine and if the turnout of their games are not successful, Unreal Engine 3 may lose reputation, therefore losing the chance to licence to other gaming companies.

Next generation games now have the challenge of successfully meeting consumer demand and expectations. There has been a vast improvement in games with graphics and gameplay being very realistic, but how far can consumer anticipations go?

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Gaming Cultures

I’m probably part of the competitive online gaming culture but not with games that would be played on PCs. I tend not to play games on PC due to the off-putting complexity of the functions such as ‘CTRL, ALT, SHIFT, A, Q and Z’ to accelerate (slight over exaggeration) but my point is that I play on consoles more due to it’s simplicity of functions and the fact that consoles are specifically designed for games, thus portraying a better performance of the game. Whereas computers are for documents, research etc all of which shares the memory with games.

Innovative ideas and technology allows gamers to ‘socialise’ more within gaming. The introduction to online gaming with Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 has allowed further expansion to gaming and lets the gamers communicate using headsets whilst playing. Playing online with consoles means you will always have someone (even if they’re on the other side of the world) to play with, depending on the game. This eliminates the tedious ‘single player’ mode that gets repetitive over time. You’re abilities aren’t really tested until you play a game with someone else. I’ve noticed that when you constantly play a game against the computer, you pick up what the computer’s functions do, hence predicting what may happen next, whereas with humans, you obviously can’t. For example, when playing against the console in ‘Tekken 5’, the CPU (the brains of the console) registers the moves you use against it in every round, therefore knowing when to block the same move the next time you use it.

Gaming occupies somewhat most of my free time. I normally play console games when I want to step out of this world and enter a virtual one. It’s almost like an escape from things I avoid or try to forget.

I must admit, I DID have friends I only knew through MSN, but this was when I was between the ages of 13-15 when I had no life and chatting online with complete strangers was “cool.” Now I would prefer to know who I am talking to, by which I mean they are actual physical beings who I know and have seen. Having said that, I’ll probably end up contradicting myself when I end up with a long list of friends from around the world whilst playing games on the PS3 online.

The Game Industry

Like many other businesses, gaming companies are closing down due to the global economic slowdown and with people spending less; this makes the competition tough to win consumers and markets.

Nevertheless, the gaming industry continues to release games of interest to the consumers.
So what are the remaining games companies doing to avoid the closure of their business? Is there a secret to the industry’s maintained success? No. The majority of games being released are sequels and/or remakes of classics which are guaranteed the sales. The endless list includes games such as: ‘Street Fighter, Golden Axe, Resident Evil and Tekken.’ Now I know it’s logical to release a sequel if the previous game was successful and I for one can’t wait to purchase ‘Tekken 6,’ but the first game in the series was a unique and new idea to begin with and a risk worth taking. So are companies now afraid to release something completely diverse?

I remember the classic ‘Street Fighter’ and ‘Golden Axe’ being simple, pixelated games but their general idea and gameplay along with addictive qualities is what made them be successful games and part of my favourite video games.

In very rare circumstances, a company may release successful new and unique games that are not taken from a movie or television programme. Although games like these gain consumer interest, they offer a low income and at the end of the day, game companies are only interested in what’s in the consumers’ wallet.

As most gaming companies are relying on sequels of games to generate masses of income, they face challenges to make their next sequels harder as gamers already know how to play them and at the same time, gain new customers. I own ‘Resistance 2,’ and I can honestly say that I did not need to play the first ‘Resistance: Fall of Man’ to get into the game and understand the storyline. I also wasn’t a fan of the ‘Resistance’ series until I played ‘Resistance 2.’

This challenge may impact the industry in the future by consumer’s wanting games that are better than their sequels. Unfortunately, at this point, re-releasing games and sequels over and over again may not be enough to win the market, so companies will have to result in releasing fresh, unique, never before seen games that consumers will want and need. Good luck!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

An Unforgettable Purchase!

I’ve just purchased the Playstation 3 (a rather wise choice) and I have no doubts about this epic invention! As soon as I set it up and played the first game on it, I was hooked and within minutes, it was connected to the internet (efficient or what!).

The console came with two games as part of the bundle, ‘Mirrors Edge’ and ‘Resistance 2.’ I started to play ‘Mirrors Edge’ first, but the game was slightly disappointing as it didn’t uphold my interest and attention. Don’t get me wrong, the graphics were amazing, but this game wasn’t my cup of tea as it is a slow paced game to begin with, not sure if it becomes more action-packed later as I haven’t played that far into the game.

After about 30 minutes of ‘Mirrors Edge,’ I decided to give ‘Resistance 2’ by Insomniac Games a go, and what a game it is! I don’t own the previous ‘Resistance: Fall of Man’ game, but I am seriously considering it. I just love how ‘Resistance 2’ doesn’t have a long tedious introduction. Right from the start, the game places you in the middle of action and destruction, instantly absorbing you in the game. The aliens/monsters definitely have a lasting effect on the player with their gruesome characteristics and unexpected appearances during gameplay.

What I especially like about this game are that the surroundings and scenes during gameplay are not just narrow, predictable corridors like most first hand player games. Instead, playing ‘Resistance 2’ it is like stepping into an open world of destruction with the player in the centre of it. The graphics are equally amazing in both video sequences and during gameplay. One aspect from the graphics that stood out was the perfect realism of the water.

With ‘Resistance 2,’ Insomniac Games definitely know how to maintain current customers and at the same time, reel-in new ones.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Mist

So, I recently watched ‘The Mist,’ directed by Frank Darabont for the first time and I have mixed emotions about the film. There were parts I thought were excellent and some that were rubbish. I’ve not read the book, but from film reviews, the ending in the book is more open than the films’ controversial end.

There is a typical horror movie start with build up of tension as a mysterious mist overshadows a small community from a storm. David Drayton, his son and other customers are forced to dwell in the store after a man with a bloody nose and injuries runs to the store exclaiming, ‘there is something in the mist!’ As time passes, tensions ascend and after various attacks by a tentacle monster, over-sized insects and a pterodactyl like creature, the group begin to divide and turn against one another. The main cause of this is by Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), a religious activist who suspects the attacks are an act of God requiring sacrifice. She creates a sect from the psychologically pressured patrons. Harden does a spectacular job with the character. The portrayal of the character formed hatred towards Mrs. Carmody and when she did eventually die, the audience naturally cheered.

One thing that really annoyed me was the fact that in the first third of the movie, people kept entering the mist despite seeing the consequences such as disappearances, disembowelled bodies and hearing screams. In reality, I don’t think any sane person would do this in that scenario.

Darabont’s choice of minimal music throughout the movie was a wise choice as the silence definitely sets the mood and has a lasting effect on the audience to create fear. During the end of the movie, as the car drives slowly through the mist in the hope of survival, the powerful song “The Host of Seraphim" by Dead Can Dance is played. I thought this song depicted the end of the line for mankind’s fate perfectly.

The scene showing the tall creature stomping by the car near the end was constructed perfectly. The way it was presented in front of the sun and mist gave it an eccentric silhouette and a sense of wonder.

The ending was hardly gruesome, but it was gruesome in an emotional way and I thought it was rather ironic how a weapon meant for protection ended up being the cause of death for four out of the five remaining characters. I wouldn’t say it was the worst ending, just unexpected and a huge twist. Although the ending was a bit rushed, it creates emotion towards the audience. It made me feel slightly upset and depressed which are the emotions, along with anger that were meant to be experienced by the viewer. Darabont met his aim of wanting the audience to feel the emotions of David Drayton’s.

Overall, the monsters were only a small fragment of the movie. It was more about hope and humankind in addition to the psychological minds of humans and how they react in extreme situations.

The movie was stuck in my mind long after it was over with the recurring thoughts of ‘What if’ questions.

Saturday, 10 January 2009


Creativity is an open topic and can mean many things to people. It allows us to express ourselves individually. I see creativity as producing something new from ideas thought out from experiences and in the mind. When someone has innovative ideas, but does nothing about them, this is not being creative, it is just imagination.

Games manifest creativity through most characteristics. The graphics show what the creative minds of the artists and animators were thinking about how to portray the scenes in the game. Creativity is also revealed from the gameplay, for example, Nintendo Wii’s gameplay is original and it adds to the realistic effect of the player being immersed in the game.

I don’t think creativity has a common face as it lies within the individual to identify what they think is creative. If an idea for a game was original, I would class that as being creative as the concept is fresh as it shows the world something new.

As for who ‘does’ creativity, most roles include some sort of creative side. In gaming, the art director, artists and writers work very closely. The writers’ creativity is input into the storyline of the game or character specifications and profiles. Their writing may be influenced from life experiences or a dream of which they used to produce creative writing. The artists create the concepts, which may be an idea from a selection of experimental images and the art director uses their creative spark to manage what we, the gamers, eventually see and make the final product look appealing to gamers.

The idea that only special, talented people are creative and are born that way, shrink others’ confidence in their creative abilities. There is no such thing as being born with ‘talent’ or natural creativity; it’s a psychological matter. If someone says they want to be an artist, all it takes to be one are opportunities, training, being motivated, encouragement and practise, not ‘talent.’ The same applies to creativity. Mozart trained for 16 years before he produced master work that was acknowledged. The key was practise, do this and anyone can be creative with improvement over time and effort.
There may be, however, a dark side to creativity. By encouraging it, people are steered to detach from society's existing norms and values. Some people are so caught up in today’s norms and values that extreme expression of someone’s creativity could create controversy.

In my opinion, an immense amount of creativity was portrayed by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954). She was one of the most influential painters of the middle twentieth century. She studied medicine and never thought about being an artist until encountering an accident that left her bedridden more months at a time. To pass the time, Kahlo painted her thoughts, experiences, sexuality and pain (physical and psychological) onto canvases and became an artist.

I tend to express my creativity from my interests and experiences I have encountered in this world. Creativity doesn’t just happen; you have to explore and embrace the world around you to become influenced and inspired to create something exceptional.

Monday, 5 January 2009


Gameplay is all in the mind of the player. Whatever makes them feel in control and entertained in the game with an outcome could be considered as gameplay. There is a huge change in gameplay from the past 10 years. Qualities such as the complexity of the game and more controls of it are changing. You have Tetris, an addictive game that was played just using the arrow keys, there are PC games that use almost every key on the keyboard for the functions and then you have console games that use gamepads. They all have different controls for gameplay, but at the end of the day, it is the gamers’ choice as to what type of gameplay suits them. Personally, I prefer gamepad console games, simply because they are specifically designed for gameplay and provide more enjoyment from the game.

I remember when I first started playing fast paced games; I had a tendency to move with the gamepad during gameplay thinking it may help me to beat my opponent, but of course, it didn’t.

Companies are forming new ways to make the whole gameplay experience as realistic as possible. Take the Nintendo Wii, for example, their console has transformed gaming with the controller to give the player an opportunity for a new type of gameplay. Wii games such as ‘Red Steel’ and ‘Ghost Squad’ are first-person games that allow players to submerge themselves in the game. Gamers play as though they themselves are in the game experiencing the events firsthand which creates realism that most gamers crave. In ‘Quantum of Solace’ multiplayer, the first hand players’ aim is to eliminate each other. The first hand experience means that the gamers do not see the whole character until either player is dead.

Gameplay is important depending on the type of game being released. Games that concentrate on the gameplay more than any other aspect such as Wii games wouldn’t create a huge fuss about graphics being absolutely perfect with a high poly count.

I don’t think there are a definable set of rules for gameplay, because if there was, every game would be more or less the same.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Story and Character

From the television series Prison Break, the character Michael Schofield stands out. He intentionally commits a crime in order to be arrested to the same prison as his brother, who is falsely accused of murder, so he can break them both out. Of course, along the way there are obstacles but the way the character thought of an effective plan to get out of the dilemma is genius. It is unexpected which grabs the viewers attention, leaving them surprised as to what might happen next. The acting by Wentworth Miller is excellent but most of the credit goes to the writers of the Prison Break as the character is very dependent on the script.

Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight is an amazing performance. He portrays the character to be a sadistic mastermind determined to show the world its chaos and corrupt society. Ledger’s depiction of the Joker is not dependent on the script. His looks, use of body language and actions give the impression of his villainous character. One aspect of his character that stands out is when he licks his lips in the style of a reptile. Underneath it all, I could not see Heath Ledger; all I saw was the Joker, which is a sign of an outstanding actor.

A rather unusual storyline I encountered was from the movie ‘Brazil’ directed by Terry Gilliam. The plot is based on Sam Lowry, an agitated man in a futuristic society that is needlessly complex and inefficient. He dreams of a life where he can fly away from technology and overpowering government, and spend eternity with the woman of his dreams. Sounds simple enough, but I found various scenes such as a man being engulfed by paper a bit bizarre…

I am quite open about the types of storylines I enjoy, but I am keen on stories that leave me in a deep thought at the end of the movie because after watching a movie, I don’t want to just forget it and move on to the next. I research the movie and end up finding interesting background information such as the director’s experiences that influenced the film. Donnie Darko is a movie that’s out of the ordinary. It made me think back and analyse the film long after it finished, which a majority of movies are lacking.