Wednesday, 30 November 2011

"Grahf Dissects X" Entry Three - Save Systems Part One: A History

Would you like to save your game? Seven simple words that a lot of us take for granted. But without save systems I believe the video game world would be quite a different place. That's why it's worth taking a look at both the history of saves, and how they can be used today.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Banned from EA's Forums? Then You Might be Banned from Their Games as Well.

Shooting your mouth off online might earn you a forum ban, but if you get kicked off of EA's official forums, then you might find that's not the only thing you get locked out of...

Monday, 28 November 2011

A Sit Down about SOPA - Ramifications and Realities

A little late in coming, but SOPA is something that I feel must be talked about. So, what is SOPA, and what does it potentially mean to video games and the sites that cover them?

Friday, 25 November 2011

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Guy You Love to Hate (or Love...) - Building Villains

 Villains are sometimes a dime a dozen, so what separates the good bad guys from the ones that are merely mediocre?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

He Looks Like a Man with Something to Say - The Talkative Character

With the technology that current game systems employ it's easy to make characters that look, sound, and act more realistic than ever before. The question though, is whether or not that's always a good thing.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

"..." - The Silent (Or Near Silent) Protagonist

Although becoming a rarer and rarer phenomenon these days, the silent protagonist is certainly one of the foundations upon which all characterization has been built in terms of video games. Like I mentioned in yesterday's posting characters like Mario, Sonic, Mega Man, and many others started off as silent protagonists. This isn't to say they were without personality by any means; after all Mario had his distinctive overalls and moustache, Sonic was a blue hedgehog, Mega Man a pellet shooting robot, and so on. Still, in many of their original outings these characters rarely -- if ever -- talked whether through vocalization or text. This didn't stop any of them from becoming popular and beloved gaming icons though, quite the opposite. And while Sonic and Mega Man do tend to be more talkative these days, the most famous of the lot -- Mario -- is still a fairly tight lipped guy.

So, what is it about the silent protagonist that so often endears us to him or her? Well, I think there are a great number of factors. First and perhaps most obviously, having a protagonist that is fairly blank in terms of attitudes and persona allows a player to easily slip into that character and even pretend to be that character for the duration of the game. After all, video games are great at escapism if nothing else, so why not have that immersion carry over to the character that the player is controlling? There's a certain comfort about the stoic nature of silent characters, a stability of personality tends to carry over from game to game even as the technology allows the character to look more complex and do more complex things.

Of course no where is the idea of a silent protagonist standing in for the player more obvious than in first person RPG's where aside from perhaps character creation itself the game is mostly played through the eyes of your creation. Although there may be dialogue, the choices are often yours to make (if they are somewhat limited in scope, granted) so when a person names the main character after themselves or uses a nickname, it arguably is beneficial in helping cement that link to the fantasy world of the game.

Another point quite similar to the one about immersion is that if a character is silent then they become sort of an icon, something for each player to reflect their own beliefs and personality on to. It's hard to hate a silent character when you're the one in control of their actions; their mistakes are your mistakes, their triumphs are your triumphs and so on. It would take a lot of purposeful design to alienate a silent character from the controlling audience, but far less to endear him or her to them. Because the audience has the broad strokes they are free to fill in the blanks however they please, and things such as the way the character looks and how they handle themselves are used to help mold the way the audience looks at them.

For an example let's use a classic RPG: Chrono Trigger. It's hard to imagine what Chrono Trigger might have been like if the eponymous character would have talked at all, much less to the same degree as any of the other party members or even tertiary characters. Yet, to anyone who has played the game, they know who Chrono is: he's a brave, kindhearted guy who can't turn away from the suffering of others, even if it will technically never affect him. His choices throughout the game reflect his selfless nature and determination to see things through to the end. It doesn't matter that he never speaks; his (and thus the players) actions are more than enough to establish him in the narrative. Indeed, I can only assume that if they had given Chrono a speaking role that it might have resulted in a markedly lessened experience, since if his character were handled poorly or didn't make the right impression then player sympathy would be lost and thus a good deal of the enjoyment taken from the game might have been lost as well.

Now, this doesn't mean that every character should be a mute. After all there are plenty of successful characters out there with a lot of personality that have been made to express it. But even these days when the technology allows for a more in depth use of characterization than ever before it doesn't hurt to look at and consider the roots of the video game character and consider just how much this type of treatment is still used. A recent famous example that I can think of is probably Master Chief from Halo. While he does talk in cutscenes and at various points, whenever he's in player control he mostly is silent. This hasn't stopped him from becoming one of the most enduring characters that exists in Microsoft's library of games. So remember, sometimes it really does turn out that less is more.

Monday, 21 November 2011

I Knew Him, Horatio - On Characters and Characterization in Games

From plumbers, apes, and hedgehogs to soldiers, assassins and everything in between characterization in video games has been around from the start, but as the technology has grown and the time has passed we find that more complex characters can be created. What turns a character though, from a necessary part of playing the game, into an icon?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Storm A Brewin ...? Week: Day 2 - Foundations

What makes a game good? Hell, what makes a game a game to begin with? I may not know the answers, but I think I can honestly venture some good guesses.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Could we be Playing the Next Xbox by Q4 2012?

 We've been told by Microsoft themselves in 2010 that when it comes to the 360 that "we've got at least another five years of this generation where we continue to offer great experiences for people.” But there are rumours circulating already that we might be seeing the next iteration of the popular console by the end of next year. To me this raises one basic but important question: why?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want - Ubisoft Says Reviews Don't Want Innovation

Ubisoft's North American executive director Laurent Detoc is of the notion that reviewers don't really want innovation after what he decided was a "lack of enthusiasm" for Rocksmith, the game the company released that allows you to plug and play a real guitar and learn in the process. But is he missing a few important points?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

"Surprising" News - Gamers Swap and Buy Used Games ... A lot

Although it's something that the game industry is likely ripping its hair out over, the predilection of consumers towards used sales is nothing new. What might be somewhat surprising is the sheer number of people who either buy used or don't even buy at all (and no I'm not talking about piracy here).

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Breaking Release Dates - What's the Issue, and What's to be Done?

Can't wait to play Call of Duty: Modern Warefare 3? Well, if you went to certain stores you didn't have to! It's certainly not the first time that stores have either willfully or just out of ignorance broke the street date on a game release, but this begs the question: shouldn't something be done about it?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Gearbox Co-Founder: Reviews of Duke Nukem Forever were too Harsh

It's been a couple of months now since the second coming and subsequent lambasting of the Duke. Gearbox co-founder Brian Martel thinks that the game got treated unfairly, and should have gotten cut a little slack. Does he have a point, or is he just trying to take Duke's balls of steel for a test drive himself?

Friday, 4 November 2011

Richard Garriott: Blizzard better watch out for the "Zyngas of the world."

When the man behind Ultima Online talks, it's probably a good idea to at least listen to what he has to say. Richard Garriott believes that companies like Blizzard are going to have more to worry about in the future from companies like Zynga than big name rival publishers. Could he be right? Has Blizzard missed a potentially big boat?

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Blizzard Takes Flak for Homophobic BlizzCon Video - Blizzard President Apologizes

Certainly we've all heard the namecalling and trashtalking before, but does it depend more on who's saying it than what's actually said? Recent uproar over George Fisher's comments in a video that was played at BlizzCon seem to indicate that it's probably both, and a whole lot more.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Bad News for Bethesda (at least for now) - A One-Two Punch

The latter half of October has not been a good month for Bethesda or its parent company ZeniMax. They've lost -- at least for the moment -- not one, but two battles in the courts. Sure everyone knows about the story of Mojang and the scrolls, but what about the other suit? Well, read on and find out.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Zynga Reports Sharp Declines in User Activity - Has the Bubble Popped?

If you're on Facebook you've either seen the ads for or have been invited by friends to play any number of games that are likely Zynga commodities: Farmville, Mafia Wars, Adventure World, Texas Hold'em Poker. But things aren't rosey for the company, as they're starting to report that less and less people are playing what they're putting out there.