Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Storytelling in Games

If a game involves a story line , it needs to be well thought out and rounded. For me, characters are pretty important in getting me wrapped up in the game. There is nothing worse then a damn idiot of a lead character… Tidus out of FFX is the perfect example of an ear bleeding whine of  a lead. FFVII, however, had a brilliant plot and great characters. Square have proven to be superb story tellers but when you have to commit 40-50 hours to a story, it had better be a good one.

Games like The Sims give you the chance to make up your own story. Second Life replaces a story line with dull social interaction. I don’t really understand games like Habbo Hotel, normal human conversation is such a fundamental thing… why on earth do we need a website to talk to new people? Can we not just join a club, or make some friends in real life?

Do you need a good story line in a game like Call of Duty? The game play and graphics seem to push the experience along just fine, and often war games with in depth storylines feel kind of corny. I guess when you just want an hour of shooting, a decent story is negotiable.

Many games are highly enjoyable without any whiff of a story. Addictive games like Tetris and Jewel Quest do just fine without a missing princess or the destruction of the world. In fact the Jewel Quest on my mobile decided to add a highly embarrassing plot set in Egypt involving a complicated love triangle - they blatantly just threw that in at the end. If it ain’t broke, don’t ruin it with a crud story!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Cartons should look more like this…

juicepackaging03juicepackaging02   juicepackaging07 juicepackaging04

Japanese industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa created these creative designs:

“I imagined that if the surface of the package imitated the colour and texture of the fruit skin, then the object would reproduce the feeling of the real thing.”

Though banana juice lends itself to funky packaging, it tastes rather nasty. Shame that. :(

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Art Director


The art director is head of the team. They ensure all objects (whether that be a character or a toilet) fit in with the genre. You wouldn't want a shiny brand new loo in a survival horror… think more bloodstained and grimy.

All art needs to portray the genre in all aspects of the game. The lighting, landscapes and objects all aid the atmosphere.  The art director insures all of these aspects come together to make the game visually and psychologically appealing.

An art director is ultimately responsible for squishing together various undeveloped ideas into one unified vision. I’m guessing this will mean resolving all the inconsistencies that are created when more than one imagination is used in the formation of an idea.

I get the feeling that they are directors before artists. They may be involved in the mood boards for the game, and choosing which talents will create the art, but in the end, they don't actually do much drawing.  But they are certainly creative, it takes a lot of creativity to visualise a finished product and complete a project to a high standard. It also takes a lot of leadership skills.

I can imagine enjoying this job after having years and years of experience wielding a pencil. Perhaps this appeals to those who are a little tired of drawing, but still want to be creative. It seems like a much more mature role, something that involves bucket loads of skill, intelligence and patience… a little intimidating if you ask me…

I bet they miss drawing though.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Games Design

Game play is what it says on the tin. I take it to mean how the game engages you, how it manages to create conflicts that keep you enthralled. Games that rely solely on visual stimulation tend to fail on game play…

The perfect example for me would be Assassins Creed. The graphics are stunning - Ubisoft have created a game that is truly beautiful. But my God is it boring. Sure enough, the general public are diverse and they react when you walk past, and yes riding around on your horse is quite fun… but really! Too much freedom becomes mind pulpingly dull. The battles are repetitive and monotonous, and the story line is a little bit lacking. After a while each crazily detailed city looks much like the next…


There is not enough challenge or interest to keep you enthralled in the game. But yeah, its purdy.

One of my favourite game designers  would have to be Fumito Ueda, the designer of ICO and Shadow of the Colossus.  He describes the approach to his games as "design by subtraction"  and it works. His games are unique and quirky, the challenges and puzzles prove addictive and you can feel his passion lift the whole game. He is an example of a guy that takes an idea, no matter how fantastical, and runs with it. I am already having fits of excited giggling at the thought of The Last Guardian coming out.…

There is something fantastical about playing a game that is not photo realistic. It allows full freedom, I can allow myself to relax into a style as there is no pressure to remain in reality. That is something I have yet to achieve with any old war/alien shoot ‘em up.

Talking of style, I was also impressed by Owen O'Brien, the main producer for Mirrors edge. Original idea and seriously addictive game play.

It seems nowadays big projects involve big numbers of brains to make them work. Gone are the days when Tetris ruled the roost, those could be designed and programmed by one guy. Games these days have such a large budget and many elements to them (audio, visual, technical, production) having just the one poor soul to deal with it would be impractical. All elements of a successful game need to run smoothly. I guess this helps with the overall shape of the game in the end, a bunch of brains working together will have a much better creative resource than just the one.

But then… too many cooks may well spoil the broth! Maybe that’s why too many games these days are buckets of sexist, sadistic man drool.

Too much testosterone for one studio. I honestly don’t mean to sound bitter… really!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Autumnal Beauty


Bradgate Park was really beautiful.  After spending so much time surrounded by grey and noise, it’s quite inspiring to breathe fresh air and be surrounded by nature. 


Thursday, 12 November 2009

Games Journalism

What the hell was ‘Boomboxdan’ thinking when he wrote his Project Gotham review?

“When i have been playing on it I have been thinking,why is this game so good” You can actually imagine how Boomboxdan would look by this sentence… I’m guessing he is a skinny boy racer with neon lights on his Nova.


But hey, I guess it keeps him off the streets. You have to be pretty passionate about a game to have taken the time out of your boom boxing schedule to sit and write a review. He thinks the game is ace, good for him. I have found most racing games pretty dull and repetitive… Review writing is subjective.

I have never understood the idea behind ranking in any form of creative reviews. How can you rate a book? Or a piece of music? ‘Boomboxdan’ gives glowing praise to Project Gotham Racing 3 - “Everything is so perfect with it there is not one bad comment I can say about it” but then gave the game a modest 8/10… Not so perfect after all.

So do 10/10 games exist? Not really, no game is 100% perfect in every area, which is what that rank suggests. I take rankings and reviews with a pinch of salt, listen to my friends opinions and make my own mind up on what I will spend my pocket money on. I guess this is why I think NGJ is a good idea. When attention is focused on the journalists experience of playing the game, reviews become more relaxed and easier to read.

Some reviews are just plain funny:

Reading games journalism normally just makes me aggravated. The games I am most fond of tend to be ones you get emotionally attached to (Shadow of the colossus, Ico, FFVII) and my soul aches a little when journalists tell me how lame I am for loving such girly drivel. These reviews tend to be written by men who think their manhood will be taken away if they show an ounce of emotion in public. They sit in dark rooms manoeuvring around various recreations of WWII blowing the heads off anything that moves.

This description applies to anyone who tells you they felt no remorse after killing the first colossus, or when Sephiroth sliced Aeris in half.

Buffy and Edward


Ok so I am a bit of a sucker for teenage angst books, and I have read the Twilight series. I’m not going to lie, they were really addictive books, but I have always loved the romance behind vampires (Anne Rice is one of my favourite authors). Stephanie Meyer has an incredible skill, much like JK Rowling, she wraps you up in an intricate fantasy world that you struggle to get out of. Her characters are believable and dare I say, loveable.

But I hated Bella as soon as I read the first chapter. She is the lamest character I have had the misery of reading about. Pathetic, soppy, weak and talentless. Buffy however….


Ha, this video is just brilliant.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Resistance

Muse have always held a special place in my heart. The album  Absolution echoed my pubescent feelings of rebellion at a time when music labelled who you were. When going to see Muse for the first time (the black holes tour last year) I felt a deep feeling of dread and apprehension. I can’t stand bands that I love being cruddy live, it ruins the magic of it all. I speak from experience, I had been (and still am) an avid fan of The Strokes, but when I heard them live in 2006 I lost half of my respect.  It wasn’t that they were pants, it’s just… they were a little pants. Julian Casablancas mumbles a lot on the albums, and through head phones that really works with the music. But on stage, he looks drunk and sounds a  little pathetic.

When I first heard Matt Bellamy’s vocals live I was blown away. The music sounds better blasted through massive amps than on a CD which is something that bands usually struggle with, and Bellamy’s voice is something to die for... I could marry that voice.  The band did not let me down - Muse have one ass kicking live show.

And The Resistance tour was just as good.  Muse really suit the bigger arenas, so the mahoosive NIA Birmingham complimented the bands powerful style. The stage set interacted with the audience, big balloons bounce out through the crowd and when they eventually burst, confetti is released in clouds. It makes the crowd feel included and gives more reason to jump and join in with the sea of fans.


Bellamy’s interaction with the crowd just added that extra sparkle to the night. We managed to get standing tickets in the end, and we ended up so close you could see his face….


Shame about the nose. Bless him. But yeah the show was just… Epic.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Fangirl? Gaming hits the 2oth century.


And so it’s arrived… The games industry as it stands today, in all it’s glory. But do we stand together united in geek pride? Alas! no! We are divided in a big pathetic brand loyalty war. But who really cares?

Then there were three. Though I don’t really count the Wii. To me, the Wii (ha ha I'll quit the rhyme now) is aimed toward geriatrics and children. The majority of games provided are relaxing, but fun for about 10 minutes… and then you get bored. Is the chunky stick-majig  a step towards virtual reality or is it just a wireless version of shooters you get in arcades?  I get what Nintendo are trying to pull here, making it accessible for all the family, but I’m not convinced. So then there were two.


Each to their own. I personally love my PS3, but I’ll admit any day that Halo is a great game. The only reason I have not yet succumbed to Microsoft is my devotion to the good old FF series. Maybe I’ll cross the divide when I have money to throw away. Or when Square Enix start bringing games out on the Xbox… Oh, wait.

It seems too little too late for competitors trying to edge in the market now. There's too much money to be lost, the market is too cut throat and cruel for any fresh blood.

Pressures for the future? I’m thinking political correctness could become an issue… There was a big hoo-har about the scene in Resistance shot in Manchester Cathedral.


Bah! The Church of England tried to make Sony remove the game from the shelves, and give donations toward easing gun crime in Manchester city. That just seems ridiculous. It had nothing to do with religion, the cathedral was just a pretty place to shoot aliens. Luckily it just boosted sales. Take that COE!

My dream for games of the future? Storylines that draw you headfirst in to the game, that make you want to play in story mode again and again. I guess I just want another ffvii.

But more grown up..

and minus the blonde spikes.

The Growth of Gaming

The growth of gaming in the 1980s seems exponential. The graphics went from this:

Donkey_Kong_Screen_3   (Donkey Kong 1981)

To this! :

MGS_screen_psx (MGS 1998)

Games began to become more like the blood bathes we witness today.  Mortal Kombat’s (1992) commercial as described by The Register - "It features a boardroom scene in which a Mr Linn, the mysterious trouble-shooter at a sales meeting, instructs two men to fight. Punches lead to a pen being stabbed into an arm; then a water jug is smashed over an executive's head – before his heart is ripped from his chest. Mr Linn concludes proceedings by decapitating another executive with his hat."

In 1994 ratings systems were introduced. Wonder why…

Nintendo released the Game Boy - the first and best handheld console I have owned – and Nokia gave us the pleasure of Snake on its phones. We now have gaming in our pockets! Back in the comfort of  home, I have fond memories of  Golden Eye on the Nintendo 64. I remember playing multiplayer for hours on end, and had always believed that the 3D graphics were breath taking. I played it again a couple of months back, and couldn’t help feeling disappointed at how broad Natalya’s shoulders were.


Oh how we have grown!

After Tetris, I managed to get my grubby little hands on a Game Boy. This yellow brick lit the fires of my gaming passion. Really. I had only two games, Mario and... Mario. One was an early version, they had yet to develop the technology to stain Mario red, he was a basic shape and the music was rather simple. That music gave me years of joy. The second edition (Golden Coins) gave Mario his crimson hues, and the monsters smiled while they killed you. I much preferred the first edition, it was a simple game but the levels were trickier. When Golden Coins came out, he had grown plump and commercialised, too many mushrooms perhaps.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Dark And Hazy Birth Of Gaming

The great birth of gaming seems shrouded in mystery and confusion. Some (i.e. Wikipedia) claim that the “Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device” was the first game ever invented. The name just does not do it justice. I refuse to accept that positioning a dot on a screen overlay (graphics were yet to be invented... gasp!) can be called a game. Others say NIM holds the number one spot. This is a math game in which you remove objects from a heap. Thrilling.

The first game invented purely for FUN seems to be “Tennis for Two” created in 1958.


Looks a little like a heart rate monitor. The creator, good old Mr. William Higinbotham, proposed that “it might liven up the place to have a game that people could play, and which would convey the message that our scientific endeavours have relevance for society."

And he was right! Science had finally churned out something that was not used for the mass cull of soldiers, but instead, for a little tea time entertainment. Who would have thought this cute green tennis ball could evolve into a game with graphics like Assassin's Creed??

And so the ball rolls. “Computer Space” was the first game offered for sale and was created by two guys, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in 1971. But alas! The Earth was just not ready for the huge entertainment factor and complex game play this game provided…

…and it failed.

Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney refused to bow down to the world, however, and created Atari Inc. And then there was Pong.

From then on it just went up and up and up in time with technology… consol's are created - the Odyssey was released by Magnavox. Second generation consol’s are released such as the Atari 2600, which eventually released the infamous Pac-Man. At this time (1983) they also released E.T. in game form – producing more cartridges than consol’s. The terrible quality of game’s like this…


… allegedly caused Atari to bury large amounts of it’s cartridges into a New Mexico landfill. Someone should tell Atari that plastic does not rot and burying your kryptonite will not make it vanish. By the way… what is that protruding from E.T’s stomach?!

And then came the Italian plumbers and the blue hedgehog… but we all know that part right?

So… the first game I played? Tetris - on a black and white handheld consol that made irritating beeping noises when it was low on battery. My mum used to let me play it when I had been good. When she wasn’t using it. Which wasn’t often.

The most recent? Unchartered – brilliant game. The first game on the PS3 I am playing again just because of it’s cool character designs (my Dave are they realistic) and attention to detail (His shirt get’s wet and clingy when he goes underneath a waterfall, what else do you need in a game?).

What happened in between I hear you yell in wonderment… Sorry folks, you will have to wait till next week .

The anticipation will kill you.