With Steam's new Greenlight addition -- a user-driven voting system that dictates which indie games will get a spot on Steam -- we've seen an overwhelming amount of games get posted for public examination. Yes, many of them are terrible - horrifying, in fact - but the ones that stand out seem like they could genuinely be a lot of fun.
Progressing through the lowest of the low - the Open Bracket - a relatively unobserved Protoss smashed through player-after-player effortlessly, consistently 2-0ing in every match; MLG Raleigh 2012 started off uneventful, but as with each e-sports event, the crowd's anticipation grew as a local hero emerged. It takes a long journey to be the crowd-favorite -- often the proverbial underdog -- and as this reddit-sponsored Protoss continually showcased his supreme control, it was evident he'd be our hero.
With the Smithsonian's tasteful artistry and with the dexterous footwork of a drunken stumblebum, the Art of Video Games exhibit's Washington incursion crumbles under its own ambitious, unfocused mass. Teetering undecidedly between "user's choice awards" -- a result of crowdsourced voting -- and "a brief history of games," the exhibit feels almost rushed, or perhaps more likely, pressured into architecting a watered-down approach for the general public.
The simple fact, though, is that an understanding of video gaming culture is not required - not by any measure - to appreciate the tremendous undertakings of game studios worldwide and their resulting masterpieces. Art doesn't have to be watered-down. This is why the exhibit should have been appealing: Art is relatively universal -- video games have various styles and forms (concept art, rendered CGI, even clay models), and most surveyors can acknowledge the level of discipline and devotion that goes into something as complex as, say, EverQuest's style and Morrowind's fantastic environments.
Recently BioWare responded to the outcry for a more complete and comprehensive ending to Mass Effect 3. Most people appear to be satisfied with this new iteration, but there are still suggestions that the new ending remains inadequate because it's just a series of cinematics with a voiceover. Taking previous games into account, though, it's always been apparent as to what the new revision would be, and using the game story analysis skills that we've talked about before it's easy to analyze a game's story and design to determine the outcome.
See, game developers are notorious for reusing what works when they move on to their next project. Engines, models, art assets, sound, level design, and even story arcs and plots are all re-usable. Even when artfully concealed, developers will return to these tendencies and give you a glimpse of what might be ahead in your single-player campaign. Some will even reuse stuff that works in the same game, like the different platform-and-puzzle sequences in Naughty Dog's Uncharted series. Sometimes it works out well, other times it gets annoyingly repetitive (like the [Dragon Age] or TES games, and the building/dungeon level designs they reuse again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and … you get the point).
Associating with system builder stereotypes and personality archetypes can be a fun (and slightly self-indulgent) way of classifying what you enjoy in the art of PC building. It's a big industry with a lot of room for customization, and with customization comes personal build styles and taste.
Video games in recent years have seen a trend toward greater depth in story development. Gaming has become more about immersion in a different world as technology advances and for most gamers this is best accomplished with a deep and encompassing story. While the gameplay mechanics of the Assassin's Creed franchise, or games in the Elder Scrolls universe (which we made even more immersive with our Skyrim Immersion Overhaul), or even the Mass Effect trilogy have arguably gotten better with each iteration, what keeps the buying public coming back is largely the storyline.
It's tough to maintain the momentum of block-busting titles that initiate a new series, though, and many of us feel disappointed -- likely a combination of nostalgia and fault of the designers -- in sequels to the originals. This can be avoided by instituting something as basic as the Three-Act Structure; developers who ignore story structuring in games do so at their own financial peril. Let's look into game design techniques and examples and the basics of story-writing for games, as well as some game story analysis techniques.
Note: We've italicized scene, motif, and other story or theme archetypes for clarity.
Very little is original in modern entertainment outlets, but there's always a new approach to design - it just needs to be discovered; the best ideas, hopefully, remain just beneath the surface, and many of our future advancements in the gaming industry will rely heavily on design/development ingenuity and technological advancements. The not-yet-included design features are everywhere, we're just waiting for the strategy and equipment to get there.
Not every advancement in design has to be hardware-heavy, though -- smaller titles, like those we cover in Heat Signature, have a modularity about them that is empowering for the industry. Using HTML5 in combination with scripting languages, for example, results in highly-accessible web-based titles that can be played on almost every device -- mobile, desktop, tablet, you name it. It's not going to get us those seamless transitions in colossal AAA-titles, but it will get us something much more important: New avenues to re-vitalize the game/gamer relationship of an increasingly-unimpressed gaming public. Burn-out is a big problem in gamers - many of us have seen it all at this point, and more innovative, efficient titles look to be the most inviting pathway to keep things fun, which was, after all, why we all started playing games.
At the end of 2011's December, Bioware released their long-awaited addition to the MMORPG world with Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). In addition to the usual MMO elements we've come to expect in these games, Bioware promised heavy focus on "the 4th Pillar" in MMOs: Story. Backed with EA's financial strength and Bioware's undoubted talent at bringing in-depth and personal storylines to their players, SWTOR was gearing up to look like an attractive proposition. It has now been five full months since release - so how well has Bioware delivered on their promises? And perhaps more pertinently, how well has TOR lived up to the massive (and dangerous) hype prior to launch?
There's something to be said about being able to survive the howling winds of Windhelm with nothing but a loin cloth and cold iron sword; Dovahkiin is not only Dragonborn, he is -- for playability purposes, of course -- resistant to all types of weather and hunger. After our previous graphics and content overhaul (which will be updated soon, no doubt), we thought it was time to venture into the world of hardcore survival mods for some seriously challenging gameplay.
There are a lot of ways to measure a gamer's personal style: Kill-to-Death ratios, class choices, progression, the ability to endure 60 hours of clicking, and -- naturally -- gaming peripherals. Nothing speaks more to gaming finesse than arming oneself with the latest, most expensive keyboard, a 7.1, nay, 19.5 surround-sound headset, a 17-button mouse, and a comfortable chair. The same can be said for those making use of creaky, yellowed, fuzzy keyboards and mice from the 90s (which, allegedly, are no longer considered to be "10 years ago.")
What sort of stereotypes arise from categories of peripherals, then? After our gaming personalities article, we figured it was time to delve a bit deeper into archetypal gaming traits. Everyone needs some narcissism now and then.
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