Category Archives: WIT

Shadow of The Colossus, Visual Story Assignment

As part of our Visual Story course at Carnegie Mellons Entertainment Technology Center we were required to briefly analyze visual imagery in a piece of media. I choose the game Shadow of The Colossus as my subject matter.

Diagonal Lines

As the game begins with an eagle in the distance. The eagle descends into a mountain range flying rapidly, in a titled manner past our hero creating a momentary clear diagonal, and frame within a frame. The combination of techniques draw our eyes into that area of the screen where we our introduced to our hero clearly contrasted in brighter colors against the dark mountains.

Contrast

As our hero continues to travel under the cover of darkness, we see the moon peer out from the canopy. the contrast between the moon and the dark leaves draws our eyes in which the director then uses for a smooth visual transition to the next scene which has a horse’s feet moving at the position of the moon.

As our hero approaches his destination he encounters a pass. Our eyes are drawn to our hero in his bright cape, and the glowing pass which contrasts with the stone grey scene. The techniques help setup our eyes on to our hero and where he is heading.

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Entwined, Impressions

Entwined is a rhythm game developed by PixelOpus for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

Warning there be spoilers ahead! Read at your own peril!

Entwined’s gameplay can be broken down into two sections:

PowerUp

  • An on the rails experience in a tube game space with a fish and bird respectively confined to a half of the tube.

  • Each side of the tube has a PowerUp bar that is filled by the player collecting objects contained on that side.
  • Objects are collected through the player moving the fish and bird using their controllers joysticks.
  • When the bar is full the player morphs into a dragon and goes into the SkyWrite section.

SkyWrite

  • A freeroam experience where players use their controllers joysticks to fly around a fixed area collecting orbs till the sections PowerUp bar is filled.
  • Once the PowerUp bar is filled the player can SkyWrite leaving a persistant trail.
  • When SkyWriting is complete the player can proceed to the next PowerUp section to continue the game.

Like

  • Beautiful visuals
  • When the bird and fish come close together their color melds into a green, which is the same color of the dragon they later morph into.

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  • Little orbs used to direct player to fly interesting areas

  • Powerup system links into joystick controls well
  • Great tutorial. The developers employed practical examples with clear visual indicators in both PowerUp and SkyWrite sections.

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  • Good use of orange and blue which are strong color themes throughout game

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Almost Famous, Heroes Journey Assignment

From suburbia to rock heaven and back again, Almost Famous is a story of an out of place boy sent into the unknown, to return with the truth.

Warning there be spoilers ahead! Read at your own peril!

The Known

The Heroes Journey of Almost Famous begins with our protagonist William, and his known world. William is a boy ahead of the curve, being significantly younger than his classroom peers.

Despite Williams gifts, he has his share of troubles due in part to two differences:

Physical examples:

  • Where are your pubes? – incident in Williams High School.
  • Looking out of place when brushing his hair in the bathroom due to not having a beard

Mental examples:

  • His joy when others are corrected – incident with the ‘Xmas’ painter where William happily looks on
  • An intense interest in his mother’s interests – whilst cooking soy cutlets
  • Nobody includes him. They call him “The Narc” – this is indicative of Williams dislike of drugs, a quality presumably gained from his mother

Due in part to internalizing his mother’s choices at a young age, William is an abnormality in the ordinary world, and he is scorned by his peers for it. Williams mother, and their home is what he knows, and is thus symbolic of the known world. The known world is not without conflict though.

Troubles manifest themselves through William’s sister who rebels against against the known. During this time William is shown not only to have a limited awareness of his problem, but is unable to influence his world. 

Watching helplessly Williams mother and sister fight infront of him. Ultimately Williams sister abandons the known for the unknown world, though not before aiding William. Williams sister increases his awareness of a need for change, through her music records.

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Heart of The Swarm, Impressions

Recently I’ve been playing Starcraft 2 Heart of The Swarm, a military science fiction real-time strategy video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. The following are my notes:

There be spoilers ahead, read at your own peril!

Like

  • The Hyperion mission! Having to manage one unit with a continuous stream of battling non playable characters takes away the added task of micro management and lets me enjoy a feeling of ‘distinctiveness’

  • How ‘cutscenes’ meld into gameplay e.g when saving Raynor, Kerrigan’s Leviathan arms smash into the prison ship which then transitions into the game level

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  • Evolution missions really helps players understand how an evolution works and how to use it

Dislike

  • After Kerrigan’s battle with Narud, I felt she recovered too quickly. It drew from the gravity of the fight. She should have been in an injured state for the Leviathan section where characters could comment on her fight. Then by the next mission having recovered, there would be a contextual piece of dialog about it

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Dyscourse, Impressions

Recently I’ve been playing Dyscourse, a survival adventure video game developed and published by Owlchemy. The following are my notes:

There be spoilers ahead, read at your own peril!

Like

  • Effective non playable character ‘humanization’
    • Text – One character makes a reference to the main players clothes
    • Actions – Passing around of water bottles scene

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  • Warm colorful storybook art style
  • Characters reflect ‘character’ through facial expressions, walking style, and speech which conveys the characters emotion
  • ‘Torchlight Talk’ mechanic, it makes sense that the fire goes out over time making talking limited

  • Time based events with clearly conveyed state e.g combo sequence required to defeat boar

  • Color coding for character dialog messages

  • Slight shine on wooden planks to attract players attention

  • Choice confirmation points that give a player a chance to again consider

  • Rewind feature, which allows player to go through the story again and try get the outcome they actually desire

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Pocket Legends Ability System

Pocket legends is a multi-platform mobile massively multiplayer online game where players play with a variety of classes which have unique abilities. For this exercise I will be analyzing the ability system in Pocket Legends with a focus on the player vs environment (PvE) tank system for the warrior class.

Classes

In Pocket Legends each class has a role they perform, one such class is the warrior which suits the role of ‘protector’. During gameplay the warrior attracts the attention of enemies, and takes the majority of incoming damage. This role is referred to as being a ‘tank’.

To enact the role of tank, the warrior has an ability system. A tank that is unable to hold the attention of enemies will most likely result in the death of the party. This causes dissatisfaction with the game, which leads to lower player retention. It is therefore important that this system functions well.

Abilities

The fundamental building blocks of the ability system are the abilities. Warriors have unique abilities they can perform such as Vengeful Slash which has usage requirements, and effects when used. These usage requirements are mana, cooldown, and player level which are the primary variables that control this system.

When an ability is enabled it can be cast, and when cast goes into a ‘cooling’ time period. When cooling the ability cannot be used until the cooling period is over. Once the ability has cooled down, the player is able to cast it again. This process repeats as long as the player is able to cast the ability. Disabled abilities cannot be used at all due not meeting usage requirements such as lack of mana, character being dead etc.

Enabled, Cooling, Disabled

We can represent this loop with the following diagram.

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An Impression of 140

Melding music and game play is an interesting area of game development which games such as Crypt of the NecroDancer, Beat Buddy, and Guitar Hero, have explored. Whilst exploring my own shamefully large collection of untouched games on Humble Bundle I happened upon the game 140 which makes its own contribution to this area.

140_game_logo

With lead designer Jeppe Carlson, (co-designer of the well know title Limbo) 140 was created by Carlson Games. Paraphrasing Jeppe, he describes 140 as an old school platformer, where the challenge is in syncing up your moves, and jumps to the music controlled elements.

After a short time with 140 I thought to briefly note my impressions of the game.

Disclaimer – This is not a  thorough review, but notes of an impression based on approximately 20 minutes of game play. Everyone is fallible.

Impression Notes

  • On launching 140, the first thing that hit me was its minimalist art style. Its distinctive color scheme made it easy to identify puzzle patterns, and game elements.
  • In 140, music is at the heart of its game-play with appropriately pulsating background, and game elements used with rhythm based mechanics to make interesting puzzles.
  • 140 relies on players exploration of controls as I noticed no traditional tutorial which can be fine. Although some helpful information based on monitoring of the game state is good e.g explain to jump or move if a player hasn’t moved for a long time.
  • Like other titles in this area 140 suffers slightly from issues of repetitive music. This issue I believe essentially stems from player progression which is something hard to control. I felt this game handled this issue well by splitting music into short levels.

140_game_elements

  • The difficulty of the game quickly ramps up, likely making it less accessible to the casual gamer. On the other hand though, this meant 140 presented more challenging puzzles, which is delight for some. It’s good that the creators of 140 realized the game difficulty, and employed frequent checkpoints through out the game.
  • 140 bravely deviates off a more traditional pattern of game mastery by transitioning to a hail shooter from a rhythm based platformer at the first boss fight. I found the hail shooter boss encounter to be a disproportionately high increase in difficulty from the challenges before. The encounter left me frustrated (maybe I just sucked bad). Perhaps an easier encounter, or a series of checkpoints through the boss encounter would have been preferable.
  • Raph Koster said ‘noise is patterns we don’t understand’, and so it felt appropriate that the ‘death blocks’ were static noise. 140s creators took this concept even further during the first boss fight as static noise breaks down into music.
First Boss Fight
First Boss Fight
  • Like other titles in this area of game development, 140 suffers from issues of repetitive music. This issue I believe essentially stems from player progression which is something hard to control. 140 tackled this issue well by shortening levels, and splitting up music into those levels.
  • I liked how the levels key (item objective) was innately tied to the next level through music. When hearing the keys music was excited thinking about how it would later manifest itself as a mechanic.

Conclusion

All in all I enjoyed 140, being a nicely designed little gem it was a happy little surprise. Budding game designers should definitely give it a play as its a game well focused on how to meld music, and game-play.