Skyrim allows the player to alternate between first person and third person perspectives almost instantaneously. Earlier in the semester we read Wolf’s article, Invented Space: Toward a Taxonomy of On- and Off-Screen Space in Video Games, which described the effect of a player’s perspective on the development of an interactive three-dimensional environment. In chapter 10, … Continue reading Gameplay in First and Third Person Perspectives in Skyrim→
Skyrim allows the player to alternate between first person and third person perspectives almost instantaneously. Earlier in the semester we read Wolf’s article, Invented Space: Toward a Taxonomy of On- and Off-Screen Space in Video Games, which described the effect of a player’s perspective on the development of an interactive three-dimensional environment. In chapter 10, Wolf describes how “the first player perspective increases the importance of off-screen space” because the player is now “within the game”. Placing the player within the game, takes away the ‘objective’ perspective of the third person. The player may be less aware of what is going on off screen. However, this perspective forces the player to be more aware of the game’s diegetic environment, even the elements they can’t see.
While I haven’t played enough to develop a preference for first or third person perspective while playing Skyrim, I did a quick google search to find what most players preferred. In summary, most players varied in how they used the first vs. third person perspective in the game. Often, players prefer the third person when in combat or exploring their environment. This perspective gives the player the ability to ‘search’ and identify elements in the environment better than in first person. If in first person where you are within the game, and an enemy comes at you from behind, you may be caught off guard. Disadvantaging the player in this situation. While navigating the environment, third person can be advantageous when searching a room, or cave so that you can notice multiple elements in the environment all at once and you are not limited by what the player is directly facing.
A few players said they preferred the first person perspective because they felt more immersion in the game. Some of them never switched between first and third person because they prefer the immersive qualities of the perspective. In a way, they may feel that playing in third person breaks them out of the Magic Circle sense that they have developed while playing in the first person. First person is also preferred when interacting intimately with the environment. For example, picking up alchemy sets and other tedious tasks that require the player to look at the object closely, or even shooting an arrow, which requires some precision.
Overall, the ability for players to choose their preferred gameplay perspective in Skyrim is an example of distinguishing the differences between Wolf’s on and off screen gameplay. The choice also allows players to identify the advantages and disadvantages of the different perspectives in different forms of gameplay within the same game.
 Mark J. P. Wolf. “Inventing Space: Toward a Taxonomy of On- and Off-Screen Space in Video Games.” Film Quarterly 51, no. 1 (1997): 11-23. doi:10.2307/1213527.
Through spending time reading through other blog posts, I became interested in the different ways classmates discussed the immersive-ness of video games. It was interested to see how immersiveness was covered throughout the different games that people played considering some were console games, while others were more casual mobile games. Previously, I had not thought … Continue reading A Reflection on Immersion Topics→
Through spending time reading through other blog posts, I became interested in the different ways classmates discussed the immersive-ness of video games. It was interested to see how immersiveness was covered throughout the different games that people played considering some were console games, while others were more casual mobile games. Previously, I had not thought about how casual games worked to be immersive, and some of these posts brought about different ideas about how casual games can develop immersion in similar ways to console games. In Desmond’s post about The Room Two, he notes how the game takes advantage of mise-en-scene music to develop a sense of immersion not typically found in casual games. He mentions how the game uses this strategy similar to other immersive console games, and when put in perspective with the traditional, repetitive and almost annoying music found in most casual games, it makes sense that casual games do not typically focus on developing immersive environments in their games. Sam recognizes how some casual games maintain mechanics that “maintain a certain level of low immersion to preserve the integrity of a casual game.” Her post provides a contrasting idea to Desmond’s post, supporting the idea that casual game developers have reasons for intentionally creating and removing elements of immersion to best fit the feel of the game that they want. I would agree with both points when contrasted together, because depending on the motives and goals of the game, intended immersion levels should differ.
Both Tien and Jean Paul connect immersion to console games in their respective posts. Tien discusses how the immersive environment suffers in Final Fantasy X because of the excessive narrative breakaway in the game. Jean Paul connects Jamie Madigan’s ideas of sensory information developing immersive environments to the Shovel Knight game. Both evaluate the levels of immersion in their games and comment on the game creators choices that develop the different levels of immersion. In a way, all of the blog posts about immersion, comment on how the game develops this sense and the intentional decisions of the creators that led to immersion.
Reflecting on how different classmates thought about immersion links together certain ideas about how immersion varies throughout games with different platforms and motives, but each game develops a different sense through certain strategies thought out by their developers. In a way, this reminds me of our work with creating our own games at the end of the semester. While I was conscious of my efforts to develop some sense of immersion within the capabilities of the environment, it would be interesting to hear how and if this was a focus for other students. Alec posted a link to his game on the class site. I believe he was going for game elements that broke the player away from the sense of immersion so that he could develop his overall meta-game comment about games in general. Overall, it would be interesting to see if this process was a part of others students game development as well.
Sophie Prell writes about sexism in Skyrim and the failure of the developers of Skyrim to take advantage of the huge platform that the game had back in 2011. Prell argues against tropes similar to the ones found in Anita Sarkesian’s Feminist Frequency videos we watched earlier in class. She finds the following tropes prominent … Continue reading Breaking the Industry Model of Sexism→
Sophie Prell writes about sexism in Skyrim and the failure of the developers of Skyrim to take advantage of the huge platform that the game had back in 2011. Prell argues against tropes similar to the ones found in Anita Sarkesian’s Feminist Frequency videos we watched earlier in class. She finds the following tropes prominent in the gaming industry that are featured in Skyrim:
Women are not the heroes. They are designed to highlight form over function. They are sidekicks and lovers, but not heroes.
Women are not to advertise games, even if the game features customizable player-characters. The predominantly male consumer can only identify with another of his sex, so women do not represent the games in the public eye.
Women do not lead the hero. Men can make demands of the hero or lead them, but a woman may only ask for help.
Women are not in a position of power or respect. If both king and queen sit before you, each with seemingly equal power over their citizens, it is to the king you will speak.
Many of these points are similar to the prominent damsel in distress storyline. While women are not directly in danger to be saved in most cases, they are given no agency in the game. The women in Skyrim do not play roles that contradict the traditional trope that women lack power and a vital role in the story.
While we have discussed many of these ideas previously, it is interesting how video games continue to disregard feminist progress occurring in society today. The sexist content is consistently challenged, but games continue to pump out the successful model games that disregard respect and proper portrayal of women in general. At some point the link between successful models and the embedded insulting tropes will need to break. Perhaps it will take another groundbreaking game such as Skyrim that challenges the traditional mold. It seems Prell was disappointed with how Skyrim did not take advantage of its position at the time, and she would agree that another game that reverses many of the traditional tropes would be needed to break the industry model.
 Prell, Sophie. “Studying Sexism in Skyrim.” Destructoid. January 17, 2012. https://www.destructoid.com/studying-sexism-with-skyrim-fus-ro-va-gina–219799.phtml.
The narrative in Skyrim allows for the player to navigate through multiple dialogues with many of the non-player characters. After completing the final project recently, its interesting to think about a legitimate game using similar non-linear narrative techniques to create a infinitely more complicated game than the one I worked to create. Luke and I … Continue reading Imagining Skyrim as a Twine Game→
The narrative in Skyrim allows for the player to navigate through multiple dialogues with many of the non-player characters. After completing the final project recently, its interesting to think about a legitimate game using similar non-linear narrative techniques to create a infinitely more complicated game than the one I worked to create. Luke and I tediously developed the multiple storylines and possible combinations of story orders and paths. We ran into many issues with certain passages or items failing to appear where they should in order, and generally struggling to figure out the details of Twine code and iterations of possible storylines.
Through my Skyrim gameplay, I realized how quickly the nonlinear narrative could become complicated by the many different paths of storylines afforded by the RPG. After our experience with a much simpler Twine game, I couldn’t imagine how the game developers kept track of the story they wanted to tell. While I can image Skyrim having many multitudes of independent stories that do not relate, it is very impressive to appreciate the story-telling abilities given the possible complexity of the storyline.
I was able to find a tutorial on the dialogue program used by Bethesada Softworks to develop the dialogue found in Skyrim and other games like Fallout 4. The program even has a similar, storyboard layout like Twine, and other list forms that great definite structure to the program. This allows organization to connect the dialogue and behavioral development. Options come along with the text such as emotion, emotion values and audio clips that add another dimension to the text dialogue.
Understanding and appreciating the work that goes on to create the dynamic narrative seen in games like Skyrim help me appreciate the art of creating and developing videogames. In a way, allowing interaction and choice into the narrative can complicate the narrative, no matter how simple or inartistic the content of the story is. The story must be crafted and should be viewed as a well-intentioned and carefully pieced together work of art.
The game Citopolis reminded me about the processes that define game play and inner workings of the simulation. Through understanding these processes, game play should become easier. Balancing the city’s happiness is easier when you know that you will need to build new parks proportionately to the new businesses you establish and upgrade. More action … Continue reading Advantages of Understanding Game Processes→
The game Citopolis reminded me about the processes that define game play and inner workings of the simulation. Through understanding these processes, game play should become easier. Balancing the city’s happiness is easier when you know that you will need to build new parks proportionately to the new businesses you establish and upgrade. More action in one district requires more action in another. Understanding the results of your reactions can improve your ability to respond to the situation in any similar simulation game.
This understanding of a simulation game is taken to the extreme when players write A.I. computer programs to learn and play the game themselves. FreeCiv, is an online, open source game based on the Sid Meier Civilization games. The open source nature of the game gives players access to the code and inner workings of the game. Many players take advantage of this to create programs that can master the game for them. Many players use simple optimization strategies that determine the optimal levels of resource management and unit or building construction. In Watson et al., players describe how to utilize a genetic algorithm to automate the optimization process while playing FreeCiv. Given that the computer program understands the inner workings of the game through the code, the program can essentially understand and test the results of its game play and thereby find the optimal strategy through hundreds of thousands of iterations of the genetic algorithm.
Another example of using the inner workings of the game to the player’s advantage includes the company Argo’s use of AI to play FreeCiv. In the video below, the program developers describe how they teach and train HIRO, to play the game. Through machine learning, the AI can explore all possibilities of gameplay and identify what works best. Only through the utilization of the game code and processes can all the possibilities of gameplay can be explored. HIRO can play FreeCiv automatically and eventually, after continued practice, the company hopes that HIRO can challenge some of the best FreeCiv players in the world.
My previous blog post on the mobile/casual game Citalis, focused on the role of algorithms creating the game environment and limiting the game experience with their simplicity. In this post I will explore how these same algorithms make assumptions about the world around us and the implications of these assumptions. In The Algorithmic Experience, Burden … Continue reading Exploring Citalis Algorithms as Assumptions about the World→
My previous blog post on the mobile/casual game Citalis, focused on the role of algorithms creating the game environment and limiting the game experience with their simplicity. In this post I will explore how these same algorithms make assumptions about the world around us and the implications of these assumptions.
In The Algorithmic Experience, Burden describes in reference to Portal, how “The ability of algorithms to perform sufficiently better in the regulation of human affairs leaves us without the confidence of our own identity – those who can see beyond the system’s assumptions can only scrawl the truth on the confined walls outside the official chamber.” I believe he is saying that there is power in recognizing the underlying assumptions of an algorithm and what it says about us and our culture, because only when we recognize these assumptions can we break away from those that we believe are morally or inherently wrong.
In Citalis, the happiness formula utilizes a ratio of parks to businesses and homes. There is the assumption that all happiness derives from natural beauty (parks) and when paired with the assumption that crime is tied to not everyone being happy, the assumption that a lack of plentiful (enough parks) natural beauty will lead to crime. While these connections sounds ridiculous when paired together, during gameplay, this assumption flows naturally as you concentrate on producing profits and maintaining happiness. It only when you investigate the assumptions that the reality falls apart.
An important cultural assumption the game makes is the simulation of capitalist dominant money focused objective. The machine behind the city is money and money comes from building more and more until we reach an end goal of having more money than before. I imagine the process as a snowball rolling down a hill collecting more and more snow as it heads towards an abyss. There’s nothing interesting in the end, just the accumulation of wealth and overall emptiness.
Recognizing the assumption of processes around us can be a catalyst for change. As Burden also states: “Algorithms are unable to adapt to change, and we are limited by the parameters of the machine and the way it is designed to process those parameters.” It’s when change renders an algorithm false and ineffective, that its important for people to learn about the underlying assumptions that make these algorithms invalid, and make the adjustments necessary to accommodate the changing times.
The mobile, casual game Citalis, is a city simulation game that requires the player to manage commercial, residential and park land plots to achieve a healthy balance of commerce, beauty and happiness of the simulation citizens. There are options to build commercial businesses, and then upgrade them so that they generate more revenue. Your residents … Continue reading Algorithmic Nature of Citalis→
The mobile, casual game Citalis, is a city simulation game that requires the player to manage commercial, residential and park land plots to achieve a healthy balance of commerce, beauty and happiness of the simulation citizens. There are options to build commercial businesses, and then upgrade them so that they generate more revenue. Your residents populate the jobs at these businesses, and also demand a certain amount of city beauty so that they stay happy. If you build a new business, a new park may be necessary to maintain the same level of citizen happiness. If happiness is left unaddressed, crime rises and business’ may close. The objective of the game is to pay off your $10,000,000 loan eventually, without going bankrupt.
There is a sense that algorithms drive the processes behind the profit generation, beauty, crime and happiness. While playing the game, the proper ratio of houses, businesses and parks contribute to generating the happiness value. Once achieving a ratio that leads to a 100% happiness rating, if you take no actions (building or updating new buildings) then happiness stays at 100%. The function that calculates happiness takes into account the ratio of the building to park ratio, but there is no decay factor. Unlike other simulation games, the ratios that determine the game factors that demand player action are not a function of time. I suspect the formula looks something like this:
The happiness in the next period is a product of the current period’s happiness and the ratio between parks and other buildings. As long as this ratio is above one, happiness will not change, (and remain at 100%) in the next period. There are certain types of parks that are more successful at increasing happiness than others, and accounts for this factor. Other processes, like crime are a simple function of Happiness.
Anytime Happiness drops below 100 percent, the Crime rate increases in the next period.
The algorithmic processes of the game are simple enough that they are obvious in gameplay. They allow the environment to process like a normal city, but the simple nature of the algorithms also take away from some of the gameplay. The player does not need to actively participate in the environment overtime if they have already reached 100 percent happiness. As businesses generate money in this environment, all one would have to do is wait until enough money is generated to payoff the loan. While this wouldn’t be an exciting way to play the game, the game does not demand active participation, and takes away from the overall experience of the game.
My previous two posts about Assassin’s Creed II focused on some of the narrative elements of the game that engage with the game player and develop an interactive environment. However, I wanted to look for an outside perspective on how the game develops its narrative. GB Burford describes in his article why he thinks the … Continue reading Telling a Story that Matters→
My previous two posts about Assassin’s Creed II focused on some of the narrative elements of the game that engage with the game player and develop an interactive environment. However, I wanted to look for an outside perspective on how the game develops its narrative. GB Burford describes in his article why he thinks the second installment of the Assassin’s Creed games is the best to play. He attributes it to the game’s ability to develop Ezio’s character through the dynamic narrative qualities similar to the ones I pointed out in my first blog post. He believes that the player’s investment in the narrative motivates players to take action. He states “I remember a time where I did things in Assassin’s creed because I wanted to, not because some map markers demanded action.”
In many ways, I think a game can be successful if they can get the player to invest in the game in some way. Investment in the game keeps the player wanting to play and appreciating what the game does for them. Player’s find enjoyment in storylines where they feel rewarded for their accomplishments within the game. They are rewarded for their investment in the game when they advance the narrative, bringing the game’s character closer to the positive ending. In Assassin’s Creed II, by introducing Ezio’s family in an interactive way, the player becomes emotionally invested in the game when his family is killed to cover up a Templar conspiracy. Once the player is invested, they are no longer seeking out the map markers that demand action, but performing the tasks that they desire to complete. Other than dynamic narratives, good game mechanics, immersive environments and rewarding gameplay can also increase a player’s investment in a game. But overall, games should not be all about graphics, violence and ‘pushing the boundaries’ to sell the game, but game developers should focus on creating player’s investments. Players are attracted to games that pull them in. Sometimes, things that pull players in are confused with controversial social themes. If game developers were to direct their energy into increasing each player’s investment in the game through well developed narratives, rather than focusing on obscene material meant to sell the game, many of the controversial social issues that videogames reinforce could be eliminated from the games themselves.
Through initial gameplay of Assassins Creed II, I quickly noticed how free the environment feels. Free-running through Florence feels as though the entire environment was created for Ezio to scale and interact with. The game developers have been able to create this free moving environment within the context of historical Florentine landmarks and architecture. When … Continue reading Florentine Architecture as Narrative Architecture in Assassin’s Creed II→
Through initial gameplay of Assassins Creed II, I quickly noticed how free the environment feels. Free-running through Florence feels as though the entire environment was created for Ezio to scale and interact with. The game developers have been able to create this free moving environment within the context of historical Florentine landmarks and architecture. When considering how game designers incorporated an interactive digital environment set in historical Florence, I was reminded of Henry Jenkin’s narrative architecture definition of evocative spaces. The game designers had to consider how to develop the narrative story while giving the player freedom to navigate the narrative and environment in their own way. There was an obvious goal to create a scalable world so that Ezio can adventure through streets, up walls and across rooftops and the historical context of Florence can help accomplish this goal.
Jenkin’s framework of evocative spaces in the context of Assassins Creed is interesting because the actual Florentine architecture of landmarks like the Duomo, or Pallazzo Vecchio, play into the “scalability” of the game environment. While Jenkin’s comments on the importance of a rich virtual environment to create an immersive game, I think it’s interesting how the actual historical architecture of Florence compliments the game’s free moving environment. Ezio can grab onto most of the architectural features of these monuments. The game designers have folded “grab points” or “hanging points” into the actual recreation of the landmark in the game. Without altering the historical context, the physical features and appearances of these buildings play into the game’s ability to create an immersive environment. In this case, successfully folding the historical architecture into a playable environment is an example of narrative architecture at work.
architecture of the real thing.The ability to easily free-run up the historical Florentine architecture allows the player to feel that they are not constrained by the capabilities of the game design. Often times, I feel like game environments need to be altered, or faked, to become playable. While playing Portal earlier in the semester, I felt as though decisions about what walls and ceilings are portal compatible took away from the freedom within the environment. Most surfaces are not programmed to be used as a portal wall, floor or ceiling, but those that are, are limited in number. It’s the limited possible walls you can use that indicated to me which walls can (and probably should) be used to complete each level. The chance the gamer is immersed and feels free within the environment is restricted by the decisions of the game designers. In this case, Assassins Creed does a better job of not constraining the gamer within the interactive environment because of the extensive narrative architecture of the game world allowed by the historical Florentine architecture.
Jenkins, Henry. “Game Design as Narrative Architecture | Electronic Book Review.” N.p., 10 July 2004. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
Assassins Creed II develops two narratives throughout the game. Careful strategies aim to keep the player engaged in both narratives in different and interesting ways. One narrative is related to Desmond’s current situation at Abstergo and he must decode messages hidden throughout the Renaissance setting by “Subject 16”. Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane, two other Anumus Operators … Continue reading Dynamic Narrative Development in Assassin’s Creed II→
Assassins Creed II develops two narratives throughout the game. Careful strategies aim to keep the player engaged in both narratives in different and interesting ways. One narrative is related to Desmond’s current situation at Abstergo and he must decode messages hidden throughout the Renaissance setting by “Subject 16”. Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane, two other Anumus Operators provide information to Desmond developing this narrative while Ezio is in the Animus world. Ezio’s narrative from the Renaissance time period is developed through missions, video scenes and game tasks.
Early on, Ezio’s narrative is developed through video narratives before shifting to actual gameplay. One of the missions involves running errands for Ezio’s mother. Along the way she discusses a treason trial that his father has evidence in support of. You learn about the plot of the story within a dialogue occurring during play. This separates itself from the typical dialogue occurring in video scenes that often dominate video game narratives. The narrative is also advanced through mission tasks. Specifically, there are missions that involve Ezio delivering messages for his father. Through the game’s tasks you develop the narrative by spying on and listening to conversations about corrupt officials, or by reading messages that you have been tasked to deliver.
The multiple approaches to introducing the narrative in games can keep the player interested and engaged with the narrative. In some games I have played, like Metal Gear Solid 4, the narrative is exclusively introduced through video sequences. Many of the sequences I will skip after I lose interest in the narrative. Sometimes I just skip ahead to the game missions instead of sitting through another narrative video. Game developers should take different approaches to develop the narrative so that they also create multiple dimensions to the storyline. The player is required to piece together multiple elements of the narrative if there are introduced to the story in different ways. If they can learn through the games tasks and dialogue during the mission, players will be led to search for the narrative throughout the game and not just when the game cuts to the video narratives. In a way, game developers can keep players “on their toes.” Players should be seeking out the story instead of passively waiting for it to be introduced to them.