Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Element of Gameplay

Ok, so this seems pretty similar to one of previous posts but I guess this gives me an opportunity to understand the true definition of gameplay. Its meaning still seems to be shrouded in obscurity. I still see it as the general experience of a game you play. The aspect of gameplay is important because it allows you to decide whether you enjoyed the game.

When I judge a game, I look at the storyline, the characters and the visuals, not necessarily meaning graphics but the concepts and ideas. I like to know that what I’m playing is new and unlike anything I’ve played before. That is why some of my all time favourites are RPG’s, especially the brilliant Final Fantasy series. But that’s just me and every gamer will have a different perception. I don’t think the word gameplay has a set meaning. The gamer makes their own meaning and judges a game on their own laws of gameplay.

The element of gameplay isn’t something you can choose to put into a game. It’s manufactured with the game, no matter what kind of game it is. The only thing that can be formulated in gameplay is which characteristics are stronger than others.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Importance of Character

Characters are an essential ingredient to the plot of any novel, film, TV programme or game, whether they are real or fictional. I find that I can’t really connect with a character in a film or a TV show because I’m always aware that they are just actors, although that doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t enjoy what I’m watching.

When it comes to novels however, when I get into it, I can become emotionally attached to the characters. They aren’t being played. They are the imagination or the memories of the writer. The personalities could in fact be real and it is this aspect which draws me in. Excellent characters and a powerful plot are what make a winning novel in my eyes.

Ok, so now I think about it there are maybe a couple of TV shows which I like because of the characters. One of them is “Heroes”. It has a fantastic script, brilliant actors and a great plot. Presumably, these are the core effects that a film or programme depend on to make it a success.

The kind of stories I love the most are fictional. For instance, I love “His Dark Materials” by Phillip Pullman. A childish choice maybe, but it offers everything I look for in a story.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Technology

Its noticeable how gaming technology has changed over the past couple of decades. I still remember the simplicity of interacting with a console like the Gameboy or the original Playstation. It was clear that technology was truly advancing with the release of the PS2 and Gamecube. Despite this evolution, the consoles were still very simple to use. Next came the huge leap to the more current Xbox 360 and the PS3. Now, I don’t think that gaming is very simple anymore. I find the “next-gen” consoles very complex. I still don’t know the full capabilities of my own PS3.

In appearance, I believe that games consoles have really improved. I love the sleek, cool design of the PS3 and I also like the PSP for its external design. The design for the 360 is ok too. It’s how I would imagine the stereotypical concept of a console to look if you see what I mean.

Some say that the game control pad and the joystick are a dying trend although I really hope that this isn’t the case. I see these elements of gaming to be important to the identity of the platform and the games you play. After all, the original design for the PS3 game pad was ridiculed for being rather unconventional in appearance. However, the design was specifically designed for conventionality. So this said, appearance is important even when it comes to games consoles.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Once upon a time...

There are a number of assets that can make a game strong. One of these is the story the game tells. It is particularly important for me that the games I play have a meaning. I love it when you can become involved in the characters lives and feelings. This is why my favourite games are the likes of Final Fantasy and Disgaea. It works the same way when you read a novel. I can’t enjoy the experience if I don’t have any emotional attachment. In that sense I suppose the story happens to me.

Not every game however has a set story which you are simply led through from start to finish. The story in Second Life is whatever you make it. The clue is pretty much in the title. You create your character and wander around this virtual world. That’s all I really know about it. I’m guessing that WoW has the same principal but I can’t honestly say for sure. I can’t honestly say that I’ve played on Call of Duty either but I do know that it has grown massively over the years from a single player war game to one of the most popular online action games in the world.

I guess this means that computer games are becoming more versatile in content and character. They rely less on a set story and allows the player more freedom of choice to create a story of their own.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Art direction...

The job of an art director is of dire importance in skilled game art department. They are responsible for the style, visual tenor and quality of a game. And they are also partly responsible for the games contents such as textures, objects, levels, characters and effects that are shown in the game.

The art director is responsible to the game producer, who is way at the top. It’s unquestionably a creative role. Being the lead artist for the art team, it requires a high amount of imagination and willpower to fabricate new ideas.

I don’t think that there is a lot of difference between the art direction of a game and that of a film. Their goals are really the same. The one main difference I’m aware of is that in a game you have control over what direction you go in to unravel the story.

If I wanted to become an art director in the future I would obviously need to be a very talented artist and maintain a creative mind but what is also imperative is that you are a leader. You would need to be ready to give guidance to the team you are responsible for.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Game Design

It’s obvious that a great deal of thought needs to go into a game during its creation. For example, Gameplay. It’s an integral feature of game design and it pretty much entails the overall gaming experience not including sound and graphics.

I think one of my favourite game companies is definitely EA. They produce some of the most popular and successful games ever. They are most certainly one of the most crucial developers in the industry.

My next question is to say where game design takes place in the modern Developer. I’m a little confused about what this means. If it means, where they stand in the company, they’re quite far up the chain. Nearly at the top actually. They stand just under the producer who administers the whole development of a game. A game designer hones key aspects such as concept, layout and gameplay. Below game designers are artists, programmers, level designers, sound engineers and testers, all of who create the team that produce the games we play. It can’t all be one person’s responsibility.

In some ways I think that some game genres require a certain design principal. A survival horror game always seems to be designed in a more realistic way. A game like Ratchet and Clank uses a more cartoon like design. But fantasy RPG games can use variety of realism and cartoon designs.

I’ve looked through my collection of games and it’s evident that I prefer a game that is more real with the likes of Assassins Creed and Grand Theft Auto 4.
I’ll keep working on my blog with the next topic soon. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A recap... the good and the bad.

Hi again. Ok, so, right now my blog feels more formal than I like, therefore I feel now I should show some of the work I have done so far. I'll apologize for a few errors in some of my entries before I start. I'm just the biggest newb ever, hehehe.

So, our first project, "Paper Scissors". It was quite interesting coming up with a good idea. I was running out of time and I needed inspiration. I decided that I should brainstorm some possible designs. Basically this is where I chose an old western theme... with a twist.

So this is it. I decided to use a simple cut and fold technique using the cut outs as shadows. The twist is that it depicts a duel between a cowboy and get this... an astronaut. Well Heather did say to use our imagination. Although I still like the idea, the execution could have been better. Luckily I took this photo straight after I finished and before I destroyed it with coffee.

Next I'm going to show the two biggest disasters of all time. I was too embarrassed to present them in the assessment, where now they just make me laugh, so i'll share the joy. "The Wire Project" started off well and I didn't have much left to do but then, the day before it had to be presented to Heather, my flatmate killed it. It was meant to be a horse but now it really doesn't resemble anything.

Hopefully seeing this, you will sypathise for me. I forgot to incorporate nature in it when I made the basic shape so I ran outside, grabbed some twigs and used them for legs. I prayed that it would have some stability but again, I failed.

The next one is even worse. Its the "Self-portrait". This is the other project I couldn't bear to present to the whole group in the assessment but it is pretty shocking.

It started out fine with the neck and the jaw but when I began modelling the face, the clay began to dry and thus became really resiliant. Thats not the only humiliating part though. I then realised I had no clay left for my hair. I would give it another go but as a student, I'm not exactly in a position to be throwing my money around.I'll move on now anyway.

Now for the drawing work I've done. Firstly, "The Canal Project". Unfortunately, I haven't got much experience with drawing environments but I hope I'm getting the hang of it.

I was walking up and down the canal thinking of a good viewpoint. I eventually decided on this one. I think its alright but there is definitely room for improvement. Next is the "The Archway Project".

I feel, again, I could have done better. It looks rushed but I think its all in my line of improvement. Next is "The Fossil Project". I was actually proud of this one.

This is where I see a change in my rendering skills. I don't know why one side appears darker than the other. Perhaps it was merely due to the scanning process but I can't say for sure. I did a number of sketches which I was proud of but I think this is my favourite.

Soon I will need to add some more of my work so stay tuned!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Game Writing

I myself once considered a possible career of writing for a computer game magazine, or more specifically a Playstation magazine. I was maybe about ten or eleven and I would take great interest in what reviewers had to say about my favourite games. However, even now I feel a little insulted when I read a bad review of a game I like, and I’m privately thinking, “Absolute bollocks. What do they know?” But now I’m mature enough to realise that everyone is entitled to an opinion and that no one’s opinion is right or wrong, just different.

Opinions are maybe the most prevalent issue that a games writer faces. If one reviewer writes that a particular game is a good purchase and another writes that it would be a waste of your money, who should the reader believe. I for one don’t hold much faith in what a reviewer says because I think I can only really trust my own opinion.

Games reviewers are paid by the magazine they write for... I think.
What you will find in basically every computer game magazine you read is the objective ranking system, giving a game a score based on its content and characteristics. Again, this is only based on opinions. I quickly browsed through this month’s issue of PSM3. Most of the points they made to rate the game in question was based on opinion. This really isn’t necessary. All the reader wants to know is what is in the game so they can form their own judgment. At the end of the day, reviewers are just gamers, like us.

New Games Journalism has been used by game reviewers since 2004 and was created by Kieron Gillen. NGJ is pretty much a collection of subjective experiences gathered from both real life and computer games, forged to fabricate a unique story. I don’t often read the articles unless it about a game I love. The examples of what I have read in the past though are okay I suppose. I don’t have any particular feelings about it. I’ve tried to look up different styles of game writing but I couldn’t find any that I could say have definitely been used in game reviewing. I did find a technique called gonzo journalism however, which I found interesting.

When it comes to my own writing, I feel quite confident. I like the simple style I apply because using is never a challenge. I would say that I write objectively but at the same time I’m somewhat subjective. I like to think I use a healthy combination of the two.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The Future of Gaming

I have to admit, I haven’t considered this question much but now I’m beginning to wonder, how can gaming change more than it already has? What direction can the industry go in next?

More recent changes consist of the very obvious, so called “next-generation” of gaming which is both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The title speaks for itself. This change in technology is still something I am in awe of and the way it is used also seems to be improving continuously.

I began to search the web for some ideas of where the gaming industry is headed and I came across some interesting results. The first theory I discovered was the concept of never-ending games. This plan has already taken form with the hugely successful “Spore”. The key idea of this game is that you start at the core and develop. Initially, you are a single-celled organism. You then evolve into a creature which you design. Then you move on to generate entire planets but it doesn’t stop there. You can then expand throughout the entire universe of Spore. So you see the possibilities are infinite.

Even though gaming is moving forward, the handheld is predicted to remain. I read a short article that envisaged the rise of the handheld PS3 or at least a handheld with the power of a PS3 . This is said to be possible by the year 2013.

Next, by the year 2018, the same website predicted the end of game consoles. However, they foretold the design of a device that projects images directly into your eyeball, causing the new generation of gaming. In the even further future, I’ve read that you will be playing games that actually learn. Beyond that, a computer package could exist that is a thousandth of the size they are now. It doesn’t stop there. In the not so far away future, the real-life matrix may be in action and also you’ll be able to download your mind into a computer. Your body dies but you live in a virtual world forever.

The evolutionary stages that the world of gaming undertakes are indeed beyond impressive but will this ever be enough? What else can they think about that can make your gaming experience more real, even if it is potentially dangerous? I respect the developers though because it must be a huge pressure being part of a group who are responsible for keeping the world of gaming from falling apart.

Now, I should add a little more detail into my personal gaming profile. This time I’m going to write about my future of gaming and what I’m looking forward to. In the future I like the idea of never-ending games. I think it would be better for people like me perhaps who don’t get addicted to games easily. I don’t like to spend a lot of time playing games. I also like the thought of owning a handheld with the power of the current “next-gen” systems. The rest I’m not completely sure about.

In terms of games I’m looking forward to playing, well there are quite a few. First off, I’m so excited about the release of “Tomb Raider Underworld” which I think is November 21st. Good times. I’m also waiting for “Final Fantasy XIII” and “Final Fantasy Versus XIII”, “Disgaea 3”, “Resident Evil 5” and “Bioshock”. There are more but these are my particular favourites at the moment.

Right now there are a lot of exciting things to look forward to but there are some that are more enthusing than others. Here is where I stop. Thank you for reading.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Gaming in the 80's

A lot happened in the 80’s concerning the ever growing industry of computer games. It is the decade that saw the dawn of the third generation of gaming but that didn’t come without its downfalls. In 1983, North America suffered huge losses leading to the collapse of several companies. It was named the “crash” of the video game industry, although now it has obviously recovered.

Computer games started to undergo huge advances and in the early 1980’s and the forever famous platformer arrived. One of the earliest platform games was Donkey Kong and it was developed and released in 1981 by Nintendo. The following year came the release of even more winning titles such as Jungle King, Pitfall and Moon Patrol, so as you can see, even in the space of a year the platform genre flourished remarkably.

By the end of the 80’s, famous games such as Super Mario Bros, Pacman, Metroid and Mega Man were available and all of these titles even went on to release sequels. This was the second biggest change in games during the 1980’s because this is when the industry began to produce famous names... well, famous at least to any gamer. But the biggest change, the change that altered the way people played games is where they were brought into the household making them more available to potential fans.

I wrote last time a quick brief about my own gaming history but now I’m going to shed a little more light onto where my interests lie. When I was younger my tastes were quite limited. I became obsessed with the Tomb Raider series when I got my hands on my own Playstation after over a year of playing on my cousins. But having my own PS1 awakened me to other genres. For instance, the first game I opened on Christmas day when I got my Playstation was Resident Evil 2. Perhaps not the most suitable game for a 10 year old but never mind.

So after I grew a fondness for the survival-horror genre, I branched even further. My childhood friend introduced to the awesome Final Fantasy series, starting with FF7. I still love the series now and I’m clearly not the only one since they’re now working hard to release the 13th in the collection. Final Fantasy is the reason why I RPG’S are my favourite genre of all.

I’m going to stop here because I don’t want to give too much away too soon but also because I’ve gone over my word limit. Oops.

Thank you for reading, I’ll update soon.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Where Gaming Began...

Despite what a lot of people may think, including myself initially, the history of computer games stretches way back to the late 1940’s. As to which game was the first to be created is even today widely debated among the professionals. However upon research I have conducted, I have learnt that the first electronic game ever made was in 1947 by Thomas Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann. The game didn’t have a name that I know of but the device it was played on was called a cathode ray tube.

Other games that saw the birth of the gaming industry were the likes of Nim which was made by a leading UK electrical engineering company called Ferranti in 1951.Next came OXO, made in 1952 by Alexander Douglas and it was made for the EDSAC computer.
These were the earliest contributions to the once delicate world of gaming. These games were followed a few years later by the likes of Tennis for two, Spacewar! and the legendary Pong. I guess you might say that all these people are accountable for making computers instruments of entertainment, beside their other functions that is. Now I am supposed to say whether this seems significant and where I would say that this change in technology is important, a lot of people would have no problem disagreeing with me.

I have been playing on computer games for as long as I can remember. This began with Super Mario on the NES and currently I am playing on Soul Calibur 4 on my PS3 and I’ve also began to go through Tomb Raider Anniversary again. But what happened from then to now is pretty extensive. After Super Mario my sisters and I began to play on our Sega Megadrive with games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Streetfighter. I would go around to my cousin’s house quite a lot because he had a Playstation. It was there that I discovered Tomb Raider and straight away I knew I had found one of my most favourite games. Even now it is a personal classic of mine and I am eagerly awaiting the release of Tomb Raider Underworld, the first of the series to go next-gen.

Anyway, after I discovered Tomb Raider I finally got a PS1 of my own. It was Christmas and I had been nagging my poor mum for months. Then my friend introduced me to another personal favourite, Final Fantasy VII. From there I discovered many new games but none were as important as the next leap in gaming evolution which was the PS2. I was getting older and my taste in games was expanding broadly. For example, I made a hasty and worthwhile purchase in GTA3 and other games I fell in love with were Burnout, God of War and Disgaea, to name a few.

Now I own a PS3 and I have continued to follow the development of my favourite games. The evolution of computer games is the core reason that I have carried on playing and it’s the reason I am going to keep on playing, to assure that I witness all future advancement the gaming industry makes.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


So here is the first entry of my first blog and it may be obvious that I'm currently a blogging amateur, however I don't think it will be long until I've found my feet and feel comfortable with writing for my audience.

The purpose of this blog is to record all of my discoveries, which ultimately fuel my passion for computer games. I hope that my personal style of writing will draw the eye of young people like me, nonetheless, it would be amazing if my blog attracted people of any age group.

I know that this is a relatively short entry but I hope you find Dan's Pod interesting and furthermore, that you choose to follow my research. Thank you for reading.

Watch this space!