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…

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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!