Friday, 31 October 2008

The Art of Games Writing

Before buying a game, I always read reviews on-line beforehand. I do this because I find it very useful, sometimes you get the occasional moron who just sits there and repeatedly types 'This game is shit! Do Not Buy!' but the more you read on the more you realise that the author in question is an incompetent fool who doesn't know the first thing about games writing.

But then neither do I.

Today's post has opened up my eyes towards the concept. After reading many examples of games writing, I now have a better understanding on how challenging it must be.

On-line games writing, I find, is quite subjective. The articles in question consist mainly of very strong opinions and interpretations, however, they always succeed in backing up their argument. Sure, I may not agree but at least what is being said has some truth to it rather than 'This game is shit!Do Not Buy!' purely because the guy got stuck on the first level but didn't tell us why.

Also, the articles come across in such a way that you don't feel that you have to agree. So what if they didn't like the way a car was obliterated after it crashed, to some players that is what they seek out in a game.

Subjective reviews may not seem the best way to review a game as it is mainly down to the preferences of the player, but can objective rankings ever really work?

Some games have percentage scores sprawled across their cover but when playing it yourself you may not find it to your taste. But then what factors of a game make it scoreable? 'This game has a big gun (+2 points) but then this game has a red tree (-5 points). It's like giving the Mona Lisa a score out of ten, everyone's score is going to be different.

Which brings me onto my own writing. I feel that I write subjectively, but that is because I do. I read a page of facts and opinions and I break them down into my interpretations. For example 'New Games Journalism', I love it! Others would read it and see it as a page long rant about a random game, but to me I see it as an amusing article about certain aspects of a game that pissed this particular player off. I may not necessarily agree with them but I will still acknowledge what they say and then maybe undermine them later on my blog.

Speaking of subjective games reviews I will give you a link:
to quite possibly the greatest game reviewer that shall walk this Earth.

Watch this space...

Thursday, 30 October 2008

From Pong to Pacman continued...

This lovely chunk of text will look at the present games 'history' and how the needs and desires to create hyper-realism is affecting the games industry.

The most significant change in the games industry is the technology available. In the 80s we were playing text-based adventures on 16bit colour screens, or getting to grips with joysticks and game pads. However, today, we have consoles that experiment with realistic graphics, we have wireless controllers that offer a different interactive experience and we even have devices that fit into our pockets.

The industry has also changed economically, there are thousands of games, covering a wide range of genres that appeal to teenagers' disposable income. Games are also used as advertisement and teasers, with many movie-based games released before the film itself.

The amount of time and money invested in producing games has also dramatically changed. Back in the days of Pong and Pacman, a single programmer could easily make a game in a matter of months on what seems a feeble budget.

Nowadays, game production teams consist of hundreds of people, costing millions of pounds as they try to achieve realistic movement and textures.

In my opinion, I feel that computer games are at a point where the graphics and engines aren't going to be dramatically improved. I feel that games will head in the direction of the Nintendo Wii, where a different interactive approach to games will offer us a different experience such as virtual environments and mind control.

And now for my personal installment yet again.

For many years my family was happily content playing on the PC,with games such as the Sims and Age of Empires we would argue for hours over who's turn it was.

However, we never had any more consoles. I used to play on my friends PS1 but we never had anything like that ourselves...until, that is, my parents suddenly decided they would come home with a PS2 one day. I treated that machine as if it were my child. The first game I played on it was 'Jak and Daxter' and I remember thinking it was the best thing I'd ever seen. I play it now (though still an all time awesome game) I feel myself reaching for the ps3 controller instead as I have lost the ability to appreciate games that don't have mind blowing graphics.

And now for the bit in which every game artist will want to hit me for. I think the future of games lies in the experience and not the graphics. Yes I know I have a PS3 on a huge HDTV and yes I know it is awesome but I'd much rather have a laugh on the Wii or Guitar Hero as I prefer interactive games that keep me interested for hours, rather than just pressing the A button every now and then.

I just feel that some games brought out now focus more on the graphics than the actual game play and that is what lead to the crash in the games industry in the first place!

Watch this space...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

From Pong to Pac-man...continued

In this next instalment of the brief history of games we move onto what is known as the ‘middle’ history of games. To me the ‘middle’ history of games links quite closely to our Middle Age history in that it was slightly dull.

In the 1980s the availability of personal computers meant that multiplayer arcade games were being replaced with more interactive single player games. The most popular genre of the time was text-based adventure games. These games allowed players to type in commands and interact with the environment in a world of dungeons and dragons, heavily inspired by the fictional literature at that time.

However as technology advanced, games aimed to become more of a graphical experience. Machines such as the Sinclair ZX spectrum and Commodore 64 led to an increase in the production of games and new genres. Game producers also began to explore with more colours to offer a more visual experience.
However the machines came at a high price and so many companies went bankrupt in the industry crash of 1983. The crash shaped the face of the games industry as it brought attention to the poor quality of the games, that ultimately led to the fatal incident and so it made people think twice about the quality of their games.

And so the crash gave way to the birth of game icons such as the NES and the Sega system. Classic characters that we all know and love were created and video games were graphically improved. An interesting fact I came across was that the NES was the more popular console in America and Japan, whereas the Sega was more frequent in Europe and Australia, (you might not have found this interesting but I had always wondered why I had been brought up playing Sonic and not Mario).

This new generation of consoles had also changed the interaction with the games available as players could now use gamepads and joysticks for a more exciting game play.
Now for my personal instalment, as said (or typed rather) previously, my earliest memories of games was of the Sega Megadrive.

However my earliest memory of a computer game was probably playing Lemmings on this bulk of a laptop that my Dad had from work. But my more vivid memories were playing floppy disc games such as Prince of Persia and those godawful pixel perfect jumps. I wasn’t 9 until we bought a pc that would play CD-rom games and the only reason we bought it was so we could play a game that we won in a tombola called Populas : The Beginning, which til this day remains as one of my favourite games :P

Watch this space…

Monday, 13 October 2008

From Pong to Pac-man...a brief history of computer games

I will now shock and appal many of you, I thought Atari’s 'Asteroids' was the first computer game. Apparently I was half right though, it was the first commercial video game but after some research I was surprised to discover that computer games actually date back to the 1950s.

In 1952 an early version of tic-tac-toe was created by a PhD professor, however the first game made for computer use was Spacewar!. Created in 1962 by Steve Russel, Spacewar! was played on nearly every early research computer. It was a basic game that consisted of two ships firing proton torpedoes at each other.

Most early computer games (generally before the late 1970s) were multiplayer games. This is a cultural reflection as the early computers were large in size and very, very expensive so multiple people used them. I say 'people' but they were generally scientists and professors as most computer games were originally developed on computers used for military and research purposes.

So this brings me as to who I think decided that computers should be used for recreational purposes. My answer, scientists. I feel that games were conceived out of curiosity. Programming the first games would have been an experiment, a challenge, a new way to test the capability of the computers. It also brings a phrase to mind ‘work hard, play hard’, as most early game creators such as A.S Douglas (tic-tac-toe), William Higginbotham (Tennis for Two) and Steve Russel (Spacewar!) were all researchers or professors at universities.

I feel that the science based background of games is significant as it shows that games have changed and developed with the technology available at the time. In the early days, computer games were basic programs and pixels as they were results of the basic technology available then. However, now, games are more conceptual, testing the skills of both artists and the boundaries of the graphics available.

This will nicely lead into my personal games history timeline, which I will slowly update with each post. I have been playing games for as long as I can remember, my parents are both keen gamers and we still have a working ZX spectrum Sinclair. My earliest memory of playing a game will be Golden Axe2 for the Sega Mega Drive. I would spend many an afternoon playing adventure mode with my Dad, when I was just 4 or 5 years old but there are photographs of me playing when I was younger!!!

I am vastly exceeding my word limit so watch this space…

Friday, 3 October 2008

An Introduction to the ramblings of KwazySheep

On a dreary Wednesday morning in late September, I was informed that I would have to keep a weekly blog. The purpose of this blog, I was told, was to replace strenuous essay writing and that we would discuss weekly tasks set for us.

Well at first, to be completely honest, I was a bit ticked off. I had just recently spent 2 years studying the wonderful English language. Week after week I was writing lengthy essays and I was good at it! I was so proud of myself in thinking I had acquired a valuable life skill. Writing in a coherent structure would surely benefit me for the rest of my life, so needless to say, when I was told that I would be writing a ‘blog’ I was fairly annoyed.

It was only until later that night, when I was sat in bar intoxicated with Bacardi and lemonades (no ice = more drink ;P) I began to realise that blogs are actually accurate reflections of our digitally orientated lifestyles. Our society is rapidly changing and I was going to have to discard aspects of my ‘old skool’ education and keep up with it.

With my recent revelation still in mind I sat down to create my blog. I was amused by the choice of backgrounds and names (I opted for my hotmail alias KwazySheep... a very long story) but part of me really didn’t want random internet users to know all the details of my life. To me a blog was an online diary, a concept I found very disturbing. So to put my mind at rest I browsed some existing bloggers. I was surprised by the wide range of styles and personas, blogs didn’t have to be about our personal lives, they could be about whatever the blogger desired.

With that in mind I decided (well I didn’t have any choice really, it was part of my task) that my blog would be an entertaining read of my opinions and interpretations, hopefully written in such a way, that my charming personality would shine through :P teehee.

However I am still determined to get my disciplined writing skills in there, so my blogs will also be pristine and coherent, well hopefully they will.

And on that note I will end my first ever post there.

Watch this space...