Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Transit Van

So yeah, put it off again, despite telling myself I wouldn't. Damn the Christmas holidays! They have made me sluggish, sleepy and damn lazy! Its been hard trying to get back into the swing of things since resuming Uni and the new projects have felt somewhat daunting. With 2D projects like character design (eeek I'm rubbish at it) taking priority my poor old Transit van became nothing but reference images and good intentions.

I set out making the design document fairly early, I didn't think it was going to be too problematic, just something I would probably forget to do. I set myself out a weekly plan of what I wanted to have done and admittedly failed to stick to it. I think my problem with 3D is I always think its going to harder and more boring than it is, I put off starting a project because a blank 3D max with photos of what you intend to create is daunting to say the least! However once I manage to knuckle down and just get to it I enjoy the experience. I enjoy the challenge with 3D Max of figuring out the best way to create something and adding all the little details and getting it as pretty as possible. I have done from the very first lesson where my simple church model ended up having a graveyard with tombs, headstones, paths, fences and even a welcome sign to the church. I need to find a way to get past the initial hump of starting a new project.

Another reason I put off starting in Max is because I know its generally not going to take very long. We had 4 weeks to do our Transit Van and, like the house, this was much more time than needed. Despite restarting the van once or twice I completed the modelling within a week, modelling my final van took about 2 days, around 16 hours. Unwrapping can be annoying and fiddly but generally doesn't take masses of time either with textures being relatively easy to create. I'm confident I could model and texture a Transit van within a week if that was all I was focusing on. so with a 4 week time frame I could make 4, IF I didn't spend so much time faffing about not wanting to start. Damn you Christmas you have made me lazy!!

So down to my Transit, what have I created....Well this....minus the awesome face.

 I was really happy with my van. I did restart it once or twice and am pleased I did. I haven't used reference images within Max before and think this was the main reason I struggled with my first van model. Deciding it was too fiddly to not have them, I put some in, restarted the model and think the result is much better for it!

It is under the 5000 tri limit at 3653 meaning more details could be added if I wanted.

It is still yet to be textured and with just over a week remaining for the project I don't see that being problematic.

 I do however have some drawing to get to that.
Damn you Christmas you have made me lazy!!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Positive Effects of Video Games

With my last blog being focused on the negative effect of video games I wanted to look into the positive effects that they can have. In many video games, the skills required to win involve abstract and high level thinking, skills which are never taught. Some of the mental skills trained by video games include:

-Following instructions
-Problem solving and logic
-Hand-eye coordination, fine motor and spatial skills
In shooting games, your character may be running and shooting at the same time. This requires the player to keep track of the position of the character, where he/she is heading, their speed, where the gun is aiming, if the gunfire is hitting the enemy, and so on. This requires a great deal of eye-hand coordination and visual-spatial ability to be successful. Research also suggests that people can learn iconic, spatial, and visual attention skills from video games, there have been even studies showing that surgeons perform better after playing video games.

-Resource management and logistics. 
The player learns to manage resources that are limited, and decide the best use of resources, the same way as in real life. This skill is honed in strategy games such as SimCity, Age of Empires, and Railroad Tycoon.

-Multitasking, simultaneous tracking of many shifting variables and managing multiple objectives. 
In strategy games, for instance, while developing a city, an unexpected surprise like an enemy might emerge.  This forces the player to be flexible and quickly change tactics.

-Quick thinking, making fast analysis and decisions. 
-Strategy and anticipation.
-Developing reading and math skills
Young gamers force themselves to read to get instructions, follow storylines of games, and get information from the game texts.

In higher levels of a game, players usually fail the first time around, but they keep on trying until they succeed and move on to the next level.

-Pattern recognition
Games have internal logic in them, and players figure it out by recognising patterns.

-Estimating skills
-Inductive reasoning and hypothesis testing
Playing video games can be similar to working through a science problem. Like students in a laboratory, gamers must come up with a hypothesis. For example, players in some games constantly try out combinations of weapons and powers to use to defeat an enemy.  If one does not work, they change hypothesis and try the next one.

-Reasoned judgements
-Teamwork and cooperation when played with others

Many games are played online and involve cooperation with other online players in order to win.

-Simulation, real world skills.
The most well known simulations are flight simulators, which attempt to mimic the reality of flying a plane. All of the controls, including airspeed, wing angles, altimeter, and so on, are displayed for the player, as well as a visual representation of the world, and are updated in real time.

Aswell as being fun, enjoyable and often relaxing video games and playing them can have many other positive affects on people that benefit you in life. It would be great if this could be more recognised and applauded rather than focus being on potential negative effects.

Age Ratings on games

Computer and video games are now enjoyed by millions of players throughout the world. In the UK, 37 % of the population aged between 16 and 49 describe themselves as ‘active gamers’. With gaming more mainstream and such a massive variety of games on the market how do we know what is appropriate for who?

Age Ratings.

Age ratings are systems used to ensure that entertainment content, such as films, videos, DVDs, and computer games, are clearly labelled by age according to the content they contain. Age ratings provide guidance to consumers (particularly parents) to help them decide whether or not to buy a particular product.
While this information is there for a good reason, many parents simply ignore age ratings. The age rating will stop children being able to buy games they aren't old enough for, but parents will buy them instead. With improving graphics and realism violence in games can become ever more realistic, so should we be concerned?

Some people seem to think so. One of the most common criticisms of video games is that they increase the violent tendencies among youth. Video games have been studied for links to addiction and aggression and its been found they do not contribute to these problems. Sadly I just think the video game industry has become an easy target for the media to blame for many modern day problems. I think many people have become largely desensitised to ideas of violence or gore due to modern media, including video games and films, they have undoubtedly become more graphic over recent years. Being desensitised to these themes and actions however does not make one capable of performing them. People have stated in the past kids are becoming incapable of telling the difference between the virtual gaming world and real life, leading to violence outside of video games. Surely you can't blame this solely on the media, out of the millions of people that currently play video games the overwhelming portion is capable of discerning reality from games. Some people are inherently different that makes them capable of violent activities, playing games or watching films doesn't change that and its wrong to blame games in general for an incredibly small minority of problems.

Lt. Col. David Grossman is a psychology professor who has written several books about the subject of violence in the media, including "On Killing" and "Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill". During heights of video game controversy he has been interviewed on the content of his books, and has repeatedly used the term "murder simulator" to describe first-person shooter games. He argues that video game publishers unethically train children in the use of weapons and, more importantly, harden them emotionally to the act of murder by simulating the killing of hundreds or thousands of opponents in a single typical video game. Many find Grossman's conclusions to be highly selective and misleading.

With games receiving this kind of accusations you'd think people might start following those age restrictions a little bit more. If people are really concerned about the negative effects it could have on their children then they should stick to the age restrictions, stopping their kids playing games deemed unsuitable until they are old enough. Most people, kids included, should be capable of disconnecting what they do in a game to how they should act in reality. Many parents see the age ratings as mere guidelines and that their kids are mature enough to play them but maybe they should think a little bit more before allowing their 12 year old to play a game designed and aimed at 18+. Or at least be aware of what they are allowing their kids to do and see within the game.

Horrible stuff!
Video games have the capability to allow you to do anything, like explore other planets, become treasure hunters or even help you learn new things, its not all about shooting people. Its an incredible platform of expression and freedom of speech and yet people want to censor it. If your concerned about what you may or your kids may experience, avoid the game, but don't stop other people having fun. I find 'Barbie Horse Advenventures' highly disturbing, but I'm not trying to get them banned. Yet.

The Value of Video Games

Institute of engineering and technology
My father is a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET -, which means he has access to a variety of interesting lecturs and events. A about a year ago there was a lecturer about the history of video games and where they might go in the future, so he invited me along also.

The lecture was held at Nottingham University with guest speakers from the National Video Game Archive ( 

 Announced in September 2008, the Archive is working to preserve, analyse and display the products of the global videogame industry by placing games in their historical, social, political and cultural contexts. The National Videogames Archive wants to document the full life of games, from prototypes and early sketches, through box-art, advertising and media coverage, to mods, fan art and community activities.

Videogame Archive Lounge
Videogames are a key component of modern culture and of our social, creative and technological history.
The National Videogame Archive is a joint project between the National Media Museum and Nottingham Trent University, which aims to celebrate that culture and preserve that history for researchers, developers, game fans and the public.

Crazy gaming child
During the lecture the true value of video games was discussed, what games are, what they mean to the people who play them, and what elements of them should be preserved. The true value of video games is the impact and experience they give to everyone, especially the people who play them. A game is worthless unless people play it and people won't play it unless they like it. What reaction do you get when you play Call of Duty, Angry Birds or Sonic? 

Video games have changed massively in a short space of time, as I discovered in recent blogs and many of these old games are being lost, discarded and forgotten about. They might not be worth alot of money right now but they are a part of gaming history and I think should be carefully archived. Games, like everything, deteriorate with time and if we don't start archiving everything now there might come a time when much of this past is completely lost. 

Lets save the video game! 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Elements of game design, part one: Game Designers

Admittedly over the years I've played games I have at times entertained the idea of being a gamer designer. At one point me and my friend attempted to design a game together, creating characters, story, purpose and settings. This never became more than some sketches and notes but it was fun non the less. Letting your mind run through ideas of how you design and realise a whole world inside a game that others could enjoy was a hell of a lot of fun, but game designers don't do just that. They are apparently in charge of alot more than that, from creating a feel and flow of a game to talking to publishers and keeping the worker bees going.

Since my younger musing I haven't given much thought into becoming a game designer, it seems very high up in the game development pipeline and probably not something that you just fall into. In order to find out what it takes to be a game designer I read an interview with four of some of the best out there.

Name: Chris Avellone
Company: Obsidian Entertainment
Best-Known Works Include: Planescape: Torment (PC), Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (Xbox, PC)

Name: Cliff Bleszinski
Company: Epic Games
Best-Known Works Include: Jazz Jackrabbit 2 (PC), Unreal Tournament (PC), Unreal Tournament 2004 (PC)

Name: Ken Levine
Company: Irrational Games
Best-Known Works Include: System Shock 2 (PC), Freedom Force (PC), Tribes: Vengeance (PC), Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich (PC)

Name: Akira Yamaoka
Company: Konami
Best-Known Works Include: Silent Hill (PS), Silent Hill 4: The Room (PS2, PC, Xbox)

These game designers have worked on games that I have really enjoyed over the years, so it was great to read about what responsibilities and input they have on the games they make.
Game designers play a massive role in the production of a game, they are largely involved in directing a game and supervising day to day running of the project. There are a lot of professions in game designing, like planning, character design, background design, programming, etc. And each field has its unique requirements. To be generic, a game designer has to think of how to entertain the players.

On a day to day basis, it's a combination of writing, playing, and working with the talent available. They have to come up with a general idea of what a game system is going to be. They have to create game systems that interact in an interesting manner but also create a universe. So it's technical as well as creative. They have to take everything they have and figure out how to create a compelling universe. It's not enough to just create cool characters or systems it has to all merge together in the end to make a complete gaming experience.

When asked "How does the reality of being a game designer match up with what your expectations of the job were in the past? Was it about what you expected?" The game designers answered:

Chris Avellone:It's pretty much the same as doing pen-and-paper design, except you have to think more visually and you have to be much, much, much more detailed in your designs. Oh, and it's a lot more fun than I thought it was.

Cliff Bleszinski:You go from being a 16-year old kid sitting in your mother's house doodling and making what you think is cool at the time. Then you wind up getting a sense of the big picture and what gamers want, and what's considered hip. I turned 30 this year, and I talk to 18, 19, 20 year olds and I already realise there's a very significant gap there between what they like, and what I like and grew up with. Ultimately you have to make the games that you want to play, but you have to be also aware of the big picture and adjust for that. That's the biggest difference between being young and wanting to be a game designer, and being older and getting a perspective. You have to find a balance between those two.

Ken Levine: I remember being really surprised to learn about how technical game design was. A lot of people tell me: "I've got a great idea for a game." Frankly, who gives a crap? A great idea is meaningless. A great idea that leverages your existing technology, gets the team excited, is feasible to do on time and budget, is commercially competitive, and, last but not least, floats the boat of a major publisher... Now you have something.

Akira Yamaoka: There was not much of a difference between my expectations and the real world of game designing...although it was surprising that you have to communicate with a lot of staffs outside development, like sales and marketing department, etc., in the course of game production. I realised that many people in different fields are involved, from when a game concept is born until the fans get the finished products in their hands. The scale of a game project is enormous.

I think this is a fantastic insight into how game designers have to approach their work. It isn't all about having a fantastic idea for a game that you think will be awesome. You have to stay in tune with current games, affairs and trends. You have to realise what is possible within time, money and personnel restraints. You have to know what looks good, whats fun to play and if people are even going to want to play it. You come up with a whole world that flows and feels right and then your team flesh it all out and make it all real. Game designers don't just come up with a basic plan and hand it out and expect people to be able to create it, they are an integral part of how it develops and moves. I was surprised to learn however that game designers are even involved in the marketing however, but they need to know how a game will be received and sell it to the public and publishers.
It sounds like an intense and busy job with a large skill base required to know whats possible, whats not and the ability to imagine a game's world.
This seems like an interesting job that shows just want is involved with game design.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Allocating my time correctly

After reading Andrew Loomis' book I was inspired to really put some time and effort into figure drawing and getting to grips with it. However it did become apparent through reading that it isn't going to be quick or easy. His book is directed at artists who want to draw the figure for a lively hood. In modern day it is unusual for artists to only do one specific thing but have a more varied set of skills, but there are several people I know who know they want to be character artists. So understanding the figure will be of great importance to them and their futures. Me however, I'm not sure what I want to do in the future. Nor do I want to pick something and neglect other areas I could be improving. So it makes me wonder, how should I be allocating my time?

The areas we are working in, Game production in 3D Studio Max and the variety of subjects we cover in Visual Design is quite alot to try and master all at once (not to mention the realms of digital artwork like digipaint). I already struggle with breaking everything up and working on several things at once. I tend to avoid 3D and focus solely on getting my 2D work done if we've recently started a new topic or if I'm struggling with something. I do the same once I get into 3D work however and tend to spend days on end doing nothing but game production work. It takes quite alot of time to get from starting the 3D model to texturing and finalising your work. I don't feel I can jump between the subjects easily.

I don't want to pick one and neglect the other but I feel like I might have to in order to really get proficient at one or the other, but that is almost deciding what I want to do as a career right now. I feel in order to really improve at drawing and spending the time needed to understand, I'm going to have to put alot less time into my Game Production work, but I think thats where my strengths lies. I don't want to put less effort into drawing as I enjoy seeing my work getting better but think true self application to 3D will require it.

I would rather be fantastic at one thing than 'OK' at everything but is that the wrong approach? Looking throughout 3rd and 2nd year work you can generally see their tendencies to be much better at one subject or the other. I think I am at the cusp of deciding what I will be good at 2 years down the line but I can't decide where to allocate and apply myself. I could try and become fantastic at everything and put in alot more time and effort into all the work I do, that would be ideal and what I aspire to, but is that too optimistic? Would I just become mediocre at everything if I try spread myself too much? Would I become to pressured by trying to succeed and become too tired and overworked, ultimately ending in a more negative outcome?

I just don't know at it is stressing me out right now. With a new desire to practise drawing thanks to Andew Loomis, stronger than I've ever had before, I am already neglecting the current 3D project which is already on its 2nd week of a 4 week project. If I neglect my current passion to draw to get 3D done I might not have such a desire again. On the flip, indulging my drawing could lead to a rushed and worse off 3D project.

Maybe I'm just over thinking it and spending too much time writing blogs about doing work and not doing it!
Might have a nap.

Andrew Loomis

I've had the book "Figure Drawing for all its worth" by Andrew Loomis for quite a while, after my unsuccessful attempt at life drawing last week I wanted to read it. So that's exactly what I've spent the day doing and I found it really interesting and useful. Andrew Loomis' drawings are fantastic and a great way to help figure out the proportions and methods of drawing the human figure, but just as interesting is how he talks about drawing and what is involved.

The first chapter talks to you as an artist, about your art procedures and the importance of understanding what you are drawing and why. I like the way Loomis connects with you through his writing and experiences and emphasis you within your art practise.
"I take this opportunity to impress upon you, my reader, how important you really are in the whole of art procedure. You, your personality, your individuality come first. Your pictures are your by-product. Everything about your pictures is, and should Be a little of you."

"It is really plain old courage, standing on ones's own feet and forever seeking enlightenment; courage to develop your way, but learning from the other fellow; experimentation with your own ideas, observing for yourself, a rigid discipline of doing over that which you can improve. I have never found a book that stressed the importance of myself as the caretaker of my ability, of staying heatlhy mentally and physically, or that gave me an inkling that my courage might be strained to the utmost. Perhaps that is not the way to write books, but I can see no harm in the author realising that he is dealing with personalities, and that there is something more important than technique. In art we are dealing with something far removed from a cold science, where the human element is everything."

These sections within the first chapter really resonated with me. Far to often I focus on the image itself I want to create and and not my own artistic learning process and digesting what I'm doing while drawing. Life drawing is especially hard for me in this sense. I haven't looked into the human body and understanding how it is proportioned or how it works, yet I try to draw the figure and ultimately struggle and do poorly. I want my drawing to be good, right now, and don't realise I need to understand what is in front of me before I can draw it. My drawings right now might not be fantastic but as long as I am learning from them I will improve as an artist.

Another I was inspired and surprised by was the way Loomis describes how other artists and even he had to start somewhere.
"Unfortunately most of us are mediocre when we start out; by and large, most commercial artists of outstanding ability had no more than average talent at the start. May I confess that two weeks after entering art school, I was advised to go back home?" This shocked me! Andrew Loomis has stunning artwork and a fantastic style, to think he was advised to quit is somewhat unbelievable. The point he is making however is encouraging, we aren't born awesome at drawing with an unique understanding of all we see, we must pratice, persevere and improve to get where we want to be. I doubt my ability at times but know if I push and continue to 'do over that which I can improve' I will advance as an artist.

The next chapter encourages you to being improving straight away, no fuzzy 'I'll do it tomorrow's here.
"Start at once to take a new interest in people. Look for typical characters everywhere. Familiarise yourself with the characteristics and details that distinguish them." - "What gesture in relation to the emotion? Why is a certain childish face adorable, a certain adult face suspicious and untrustworthy?" - "This knowledge in time will become a part of you, but it can come only from observation and understanding. Try to develop the habit of observing your surroundings carefully." "Watch emotional gestures and expressions."
I have tried to draw people in public before, but it seems on such a basic level. I just looked at them and tried to replicate what I was looking at without really considering what I was seeing. The way the body moves, the body language, the facial expressions, what they are doing, who they are talking to or why. I wasn't really looking or understanding, just trying to replicate, and it generally didn't come out well.

Loomis also talks about the errors many art students tend to make when starting. I have been baffled by the way so many people, myself included, will draw figures incorrectly in the same way time and time again. We inherently know what people look like but when it comes to drawing them we all seem to start with the same mistakes.
"Consistently gray throughout - An overabundance of small fuzzy lines - Features misplaced in the head - Rubbed and dirty work - Too many mediums in same picture - The tendency to use tinted papers - Copies of movie starts - Bad arrangement - Highlights in chalk - Uninteresting objects" While I don't relate to all of those I can confess to some and they all add up to an incorrect image and a very frustrated me.

After the book's introduction it dives straight into drawing the figure and how to get it right. Firstly dealing with the importance of correction proportions in the figure and the difference between the male and female figures. This is the kind of think that needs to be commented to memory as it will subconsciously be used over and over from that point on in everything drawn. Continuing to keep the parts of the body in proportion when moved are the next thing covered, using arcs to show the realm of movement limbs have. "Proportion in relation to the horizon" and "Finding proportions at any spot in your picture" follow and I found these pages of particular interest. I find it difficult to keep people in proportion as they move around an image so the methods described are of importance to me to learn.

Throughout the rest of the book Loomis continues to advance into harder and harder areas building on everything previously covered, from drawing the simple manikin frames and how the weight of the character is carried, through to detailing the frame, adding bulk and fleshing out the skeleton in all sorts of poses and perspectives. I was particularly interested in how in depth Loomis goes into understanding the basic structure of the human body, detailing the skeleton with names of bones, and then by naming all the muscles that make up our muscle groups. He advises learning them and later tests you to name muscles pointed on in a drawing. We, as artists, aren't expected to have a complete medical understanding of the body but knowing how its structure is made is essentially to drawing it correctly. Knowing how the bones and muscles sit under the flesh determines the way we look and how we can move and this is something I really don't have a clue about. 

Another area I am rather clueless and which is covered very well in Loomis' book is lighting. He describes very well the way in which to approach lighting and how to define the areas of; highlight, half tone, shadow, reflected light and cast shadows. I know the basics of lighting but have never considered it as deeply as Loomis does. Even from the simple examples in the book I can see lighting and getting it right is an essential part of getting an image to be interesting an appealing. The way in which Loomis demonstrates lighting in his book is extremely beneficial to me and makes it simple to understand. 

Reading Andrew Loomis' book has been fantastic. Its made me consider the human form in a completely different and much deeper way. I can't just look I need to understand, practise and perfect. There is many encouraging words in the book and helpful information to get me going. Figure drawing has always been like a big brick wall to me that I couldn't seem to get over. Hopefully with all this useful information and a wealth of new knowledge I can start to really understand what I'm seeing and realise it in artwork. This will undoubtedly extend into everything else I do on the course.

Thank you Andew Loomis. 

Friday, 13 January 2012

Blind Drawing

I haven't done drawings where I didn't look at the paper before, so I wasn't expecting great things when we were introduced to the concept of 'blind drawing' at this weeks session. At first it felt uncomfortable and awkward and my first few drawings were pretty bad. I found moving onto hands and faces quite a challenge as well but embraced the exercises best I could, it was also very enjoyable to have everyone in the same situation have a bit of a laugh at all our first attempts to draw each other.

First blind drawing attempts.

After the initial shock of the task wore off I started to really enjoy drawing without looking. It freed me up from worrying about every line I was drawing and getting it all right first time. It was a completely new way of drawing and I felt I started to get the hang of it with more practise.

Early blind drawings.

I continued to do lots of drawings while I got home. I drew various objects and self portraits and they were relatively successful. What I found most interesting about blind drawing was the effect it had on things that I normally find very difficult. I tried blind drawing cars and to my surprise they turned out alot better than the first drawings I did of cars a few weeks ago.

Blind car drawings.

I also find any form of life drawing hard, struggling particularly with hands, feet and faces, yet I found myself focusing on drawing hands the most in this practise. I even sought to make it more complicated by drawing my hands holding various objects at different angles and with my left hand as well as right. I found the results of drawing hands without looking, much better than anything I've drawn in the past.

Various blind drawings - faces / hands
Overall I found the exercise of blind drawing a lot of fun and a really helpful practise for improving my drawing.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Multiplayer > Singleplayer?

Call of Duty Online Server Browser
In recent years there has been a shift towards multiplayer gameplay over singleplayer. Sometimes this works fantastically but in others multiplayer features are simply stuck into the game because the game will be criticised for not having it, despite being a single player game. Likewise a game that is designed to be predominately online multiplayer will still be criticised for not having a single player campaign, so these are often added but not very good. For example, people don't buy games like Call of Duty or Battlefield for their singleplayer campaigns, they would be sorely disappointed. The bulk of their gameplay is in online multiplayer, which both these games do extremely well. Despite the games being quite limited and repetitive they manage to keep people playing for 100s if not 1000s of hours. Much more than they would of if the game had been singleplayer focused.

Battlefield 3 multiplayer

I think playing with other people manages to mix the gameplay up abit. What you do in every round is going to be the same, kill the enemy, capture the point or flag, lay or defuse bombs, protect areas etc, and alot of the time people will have routes through maps that they tend to use, but what makes the game different every time you play is the other people. People are going to be better than you, which will make you up your game, or worse which makes you feel good and keep playing, no one wants to be beat all the time. You never know what other people are going to do or where they will be and this creates a competitive edge and a thrill factor you just don't get when playing with AI or in singleplayer. Multiplayer is a way for companies to keep people playing with minimal effort themselves and it has become a huge selling point for alot of games.

Although I do like multiplayer games like Battlefield 3 I do tend to loose interest in them much faster than I used to. I've played alot of games over the years and spent alot more hours doing so and it raises your expectations of what games should be and I tend to get bored much quicker with games that's re-playability is based around playing against other people.

Army of Two
I think the true value of multiplayer lies in games designed around playing cooperatively with others. This has been done in the past extremely well and makes games much more enjoyable, however it has also been done quite poorly. Games that have tried and failed to implement this is generally down to the game being singleplayer but people can join into your game. It sounds OK but often doesn't work as the game wasn't properly designed for it and the mechanics of the game don't work properly. Your just adding another person into your game and it feels abit pointless and clunky.

Army of Two

Recent games that have managed to do this well however include, Army of Two, Left for Dead and Dead Island. This games work so well because they were designed as a singleplayer game for two or more people. It doesn't sound like much but it makes a massive difference in the quality of gameplay you get. Army of Two is a perfect example of how multiplayer could be done. The game is essentially a single player style campaign that two people play through together. The two characters interact with each other, communicate and use each other to succeed where one would fail. When you don't have another player to fill the 2nd slot the computer takes it over with AI and this is often irritating at best. You have to command the AI around and it just doesn't feel the same, the gameplay really suffers when your playing alone, because its designed not to be. Other games have tried to implement this way of playing and I wish more would. There is a huge difference playing a game that was designed that way and one where the feature is sort of stuck in. I prefer playing games that have a coop element rather than competitive, I think there is more playability in it.

Left 4 Dead

I like singleplayer games and don't think they should have to have multiplayer features crammed into them just because its a big thing right now. I don't think there is anything wrong with a game being singleplayer but if games are going to make this transition into being more and more multiplayer based then I'd like to see it done properly. I really hope more games are made over the coming years that focus of coop gameplay and how that can be used properly to make an awesome experience.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Heavy Rain Review - When gaming meets Cinema

Heavy Rain was released a year or so back and I consider it to be a very special game, its not my favourite game ever but the most unique. In this modern day when games can often feel very similar and generic Heavy Rain did something different and it did it well.
Heavy Rain is where gaming meets cinema and its a hell of a ride!

The game starts slow but draws you into its universe and introduces you to the cast of very like able and believable characters. What appealed to me most when first starting to play the game was how realistic it felt and the way the story and characters are delivered to you. Theres not running around frantically, jumping all over the place and picking up items like other games. You wander through your house interacting with objects giving thoughts and realism to the actions and to alot of people this might seem abit dull, but Heavy Rain isn't about the thrills of other games, its about drawing you into this immerse world and making you believe its real, make you think your watching a film or living it.

The game makes you care about your disconnected son, who still suffers after your wife's death, only to have him kidnapped by the 'Origami Killer'. This is where the story really kicks off and the game readily switches from character to character between chapters, each with their own specific motives for uncovering the Origami Killer. As these separate tales intersect, you spend much of your time methodically probing environments for clues to the killer's identity, controlling one of the four main characters to find items of interest relevant to the case.  

Object interaction employs the right analogue stick to perform movements designed to mimic actions you'd use in real life which adds a subtle layer of immersion to the experience and something I haven't seen done so well in any other game. As the game really starts to bare its teeth with moral choices, it's amazing how effectively these simple directional choices take on truly sickening significance.

The game employs some stunning iinteractive cut-scenes which use an intuitive combination of button presses to reflect your on-screen options and, while many might complain about the lack of interaction in these often superbly-choreographed moments, the fact you're able to almost subliminally influence the outcome of events is quite impressive.

In the first half of the game your choices are relatively unimportant and don't impact the direction of the story but it's in the game's latter half where your decisions really start to matter and it's here that the game impresses with its sense of consequence. Whether the result of genuine deliberation or simple carelessness, your actions start to have significant effects on the story and for the story's outcome. Don't expect all, or indeed any, of your characters to make it through to the finale.

I think Heavy Rain is in a class of it's own. Its deeply compelling and movie like story make the gameplay engaging and interesting. It has stunning graphics and has a truly atmospheric universe. The story's so good you'll probably want to see it again. However, with significant choices mostly limited to the second half of the game, you'll likely exhaust story deviations fairly quick. Heavy Rain’s undoubtedly a sophisticated, fearless and often remarkable piece of entertainment. As a game it's not always successful but, as an experience, it's absolutely unforgettable.