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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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
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.
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
Evolution missions really helps players understand how an evolution works and how to use it
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
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.
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.
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.
We can represent this loop with the following diagram.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.