Sunday, March 13, 2011

App Proposal

The following is a presentation on an app proposal for my final year project; a digital painting application.

Digital painting is relatively new, and as yet, the resources available for this subject matter are limited. While there are awesome resources such as publications and tutorials from Gnomon Workshop, Focal Press and ImagineFX to name a few, these often presume that the reader is already familiar with the program as well as art basics. In fact, those people are the target markets for these publications.

This leaves a niche in terms of beginner users, who are unfamiliar with the programs or even basics of art and painting.

The proposed app would include some art basics, but at a simple level to prevent user overload, and would mainly be step-by-step tutorials with layers of inbuilt help via touch buttons etc.

Unfortunately the presentation embedded does not include the effects I will be using in the actual proposal presentation, but it is very similar other than that.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Awe and Escapism in Games

Awe and Escapism in Games

Awe, or wonder in games is a pinnacle that many games strive to emulate but few manage to actually achieve.

The usual aim of invoking a sense of awe in the player is in order to further immerse the player into the game world, creating a situation or place so fascinating that the player wants it to exist, at least while the game is being played.

In today’s high-competition gaming industry, the difficulty of truly evoking wonder in a player has increased exponentially, since they have ‘seen it all before’. It is no longer considered truly impressive if better textures or particle effects are used in one game over another.

There are myriad ways games can attempt to evoke this emotion, and since games rely heavily on visual effects, this is the most common, and arguably easiest, way. A huge expanse, or even a small but well detailed enivironment can both be used to present a world to the player that is believeable.

Secondly, games often use the score, or game music as a way to manipulate player emotions, similarly to movies. A strong stirring score at the right moment will create an atmosphere that is compelling and dramatic.

Thirdly, the use of storyline and character development plays a part in contributing to this sense of awe. Well written, voiced and acted characters help to contribute to the realism of the game world, sealing in its wonder. If, while playing a game, the player is constantly reminded that they are in a game, more often than not, they cease to be amazed by what they see. It is only when they partake in the fantasy or roleplay of that game that they are impressed by what they encounter. Thus, awe and escapism are intrinsically linked in a game.

As with everything, timing is key. Only placing stunning vistas as backdrops to quick cut scenes means most players will not appreciate the attempt.


In the following games, I attempt to dissect the main methods they use to instil awe and wonder in a player, thus increasing player immersion in the game



The wonder in mass effect comes from its adherence to realism while going all-out to create a vision of the future that seems impossible. Although it is up to players to decide whether or not to read, Mass Effect contains a codex which is full of explanations as to why things are as they are in the universe. Although not all of the explanations are scientifically accurate, enough remain consistent with pop-culture physics that the average player accepts the possibility of the existence of the Mass Effect 2 universe.

Additionally, the setting of the game (the entire galaxy) immediately lends itself to a sense of scale and unbelievable stakes at play (the entire galaxy)

Mass Effect 2 hits home this effectively in the opening sequence of the game. The cutscene and gameplay are seamlessly integrated, immersing the player, which makes it all the more hard-hitting when the player’s character dies.

This also allows the game to invoke in the player a suspension of disbelief when the game takes liberties with other aspects of its storyline, such as reviving the character a few minutes later.



Few games contain as much attention to detail as that of the Fallout series. While most RPGs contain linear plots, or plots with side quests, not many allow the player to roam as freely and attempt as many different side-quests as the Fallout series does. This freedom and lack of funnelling of the player (an issue the FPS genre is generally notorious for) is a new concept, especially to gamers used to a fixed story arc.

This ability to do anything you want is taken to the extreme in Fallout, where the player can kill or befriend almost anything, and go almost anywhere, and take almost any choice in any given situation. This creates a huge sense of wonder, as the line between reality and the fantasy of the game is blurred somewhat through this mechanic.

This is further reinforced by the detail of what would usually be Easter Eggs in most games, but are a common occurrence in Fallout. These consist of notes, advertisements, comments in the game that are often humorous and often have nothing to do whatsoever with any quests or plots in the game, building a sense of a real, actual world existing.

The addition of the Hardcore mode in Fallout New Vegas, while some would argue is irritating and pointless, potentially increases the player’s attachment to the in-game avatar as he/she is forced to plan out a trip and search for sustenance exactly as they would have to if they really lived in the game.



The Bioshock series has an impressive art-style and game world location, under the sea. The awe-factor of Bioshock’s pressurised city and the occasional glimpses out onto a huge ocean vista teeming with sea life cannot be denied. However, it could be argued that this is a secondary wow-factor of the game in comparison to its shock (no pun intended) value.

The collapse of the underwater city of Rapture and the subsequent abuse its inhabitants inflict upon each other and themselves creates a sense of wonder in the player, prompting them to continue along the storyline in order to find out what exactly happened in the game. Additionally, the game thus lulls the player into a false sense of superiority, that they have not degraded as much as the inhabitants of Rapture.

This feeling is entirely shattered when the player faces the choice of harvesting or rescuing ‘little sisters’ in the game in order to obtain the Adam that each inhabitant of Rapture is addicted to.

The fact that harming children is such taboo in society, even in the usually lax world of games, increases the shock value of this decision the player must make. The fact that this choice is presented to the player, and with graphic results, serves to increase the emotional impact of this game mechanic.


Music and Familiarity

Hans Zimmer is a name more commonly associated with big-budget blockbuster films than with the gaming industry. The use of his music in Modern Warfare 2 was actively advertised as a selling point of the game, rather than the usual small note in the credits. Hans Zimmer’s music is widely regarded as powerful, dramatic music.

Whatever other failings Modern Warfare 2 may have, the DC Burning mission has been a favourite of the game’s players, possibly due to a number of factors. It is in this mission that the music score is matched perfectly to the action. As the player emerges from the bunker and sees the Washington Monument on fire, the music kicks into its strongest strains. This mix of visual and aural attack on the senses works even for a non-American, as the Washington Monument is a well-known structure. The player is awe-struck at the sight of something so familiar turned into something so different. It also bridges the gap between reality and the fantasy of the game.

Soundtrack to Washington DC mission:



Innovation and Humour

Portal’s clinical and minimalistic level design does not lend itself to creating a sense of awe. The creators of portal themselves admitted to trying to evoke a sense of being a rat in a maze.

Where it does bring wonder to the fore is in the innovation of its gameplay. The first time the player is introduced to a portal that allows them to teleport from one side of the room to the other, the amazement of the departure from normality that the game allows instantly impresses the player and makes them want to continue.

This experimental attitude is encouraged throughout the game, with black humour punctuating the player’s attempts at solving the puzzles presented, keeping the player off balance, often literally.

This simple application of a single game mechanic to inspire such wonder in a player means that Portal has been hugely successful, especially as it was never meant to be a full standalone game.



Shadow of the Colossus revolved around a single player attempting to bring down huge gigantic monsters. The sheer scale of the game world (reaching all the Colossi required hours of horse-riding) and the creatures themselves was the main vehicle for awe in the game.

Each creature was the size of a large building, and the player was always insignificant in comparison. This sense of scale allowed for periods of open-jawed gazing upon the Colossus before even attempting to dispatch them.

This sense of scale was present in all aspects of the game. Attempting to kill a Colossus involved first catching up with it, and then attempting to climb it, which took a long time in itself, further emphasising their size. The use of fog and mist in the game to emphasize the distance a Colossus was from the player also invoke this sense of hugeness (if it’s that big that far away, how much bigger will it be up close?)

Additionally, the use of vegetation growing upon the behemoths and their rock/cement construction emphasised their heaviness and solidity.

All this coupled with the strange beauty of the Colossi created a situation where the player wanted to explore and see another Colossus, to see for him or herself what it looked like.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Red Cross International Humanitarian Laws

Project for Ludology class - do the games Fallout New Vegas, Battlefield 2, Half Life 2 and Medal of Honor 2010 comply with the Red Cross International Humanitarian Laws ?

Everyone knows the answer to that...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

.45K beta test

.45K game is ready for beta testing below !:

(point) 45K bet...
Added: 08 December 2010
By: FirewaterSun

Sunday, November 21, 2010

.45K Concept Posters

Some poster-style concepts I did up in a few hours for .45K, to give me some ideas of game look and mechanics, showing the teddy bear and his main toy enemies