Very reminiscent of Pac Man, it occurs to me that agar.io might be the closest thing to a modern multiplayer Pac Man. Whereas Pac Man has a specific level design and series of obstacles the player is required to tackle in order to progress through the game, agar.io has far less structure and goal in… Continue reading What does agar.io do?
Very reminiscent of Pac Man, it occurs to me that agar.io might be the closest thing to a modern multiplayer Pac Man. Whereas Pac Man has a specific level design and series of obstacles the player is required to tackle in order to progress through the game, agar.io has far less structure and goal in mind, with no landmark achievements the player is working toward (like beating the level in pac-man) and an infinitely long possible gameplay time, with the player staying safe in gameplay as long as they remain the largest player and manage to eat all smaller players. Despite the competitive and sometimes intense or fast-paced multiplayer gameplay, players have the option of simply grazing on the numerous dots spawning around the gameplay grid and minding their own business (as long as a larger player doesn’t decide to make them a snack). The more open-world nature of agar.io in comparison to Pac Man seems reflective to me of a more general trend in the way games have changed since the rise of arcade games. I see games becoming more and more open-world, with the rules defining the world of a game becoming less and less rigid. Even though the mechanics of agar.io are very simple (beyond the multiplayer online aspect), the game is not one I could easily have seen being made during pac-man’s time (or at least an 8-bit version). To me, this change represents a shift to a more Ian Bogost-like “do things with video games” attitude, with the things agar.io “does” being creating an informal online community as well as simulating a sort of hypothetical biological cannibalistic relationship wiith a completely darwinistic attitude. The other players almost feel like some kind of bacteria floating in a graph-based fluid, the stronger ones preying on the weaker. The shift to more free-form open-world games allows games to make much more interesting commentary than they previously could.
Having played agar.io several times a couple years ago, I was very surprised to see its popularity has been maintained (if not grown) since the last time I played. When I last played there was no revenue-generating system of payment or advertisement present in the game from what I remember. Now when I open the… Continue reading Changes in agar.io
Having played agar.io several times a couple years ago, I was very surprised to see its popularity has been maintained (if not grown) since the last time I played. When I last played there was no revenue-generating system of payment or advertisement present in the game from what I remember. Now when I open the website in my browser, I am first faced with an image informing me that I am using an adblocker (true) and asking me to disable it, followed by a number of panels advertising new apps and games that the developer has released as well as social media widgets for sharing the game and your score. Additionally, another ad appears superimposed over everything and you must close it before reaching the widgets to log in and play. Players may now customize more elements of their “character” like the skin and name displayed on your circle as you glide around the grid-based map eating smaller dots and players. I’m interested in both the fact that so many people still play this game despite how old it is (at least to me) and also the ways in which the game has been able to create apparent revenue streams and update content in a way that maintains the engagement of players while still creating an economic profit for the developer. Despite these superficial changes, there seem to be few (if any) changes to the actual mechanics of the game (unless there are some that I missed) and I found little difference in the actual gameplay experience from when I first started playing. I find the gameplay of agar.io to be part relaxing, part competitive. I would say the game is relaxing in that the movements of the player are smooth and very simple in mechanic nature, with the player simply guiding around their circle-shaped character with the mouse. It is also competitive, with the multi-player combat incentivising to absorb smaller players in order to increase their size.
The term “casual game” hardly applies to this sword swinging beauty of a game. Infinity Blade III could easily be sold on console and flushed out into a full RPG. The game already has depth and incredible graphics, because of this I question the title of “causal.” When we hear the term “casual” we think … Continue reading “Mobile is not Casual”
The term “casual game” hardly applies to this sword swinging beauty of a game. Infinity Blade III could easily be sold on console and flushed out into a full RPG. The game already has depth and incredible graphics, because of this I question the title of “causal.” When we hear the term “casual” we think of Flappy Bird and Doodlejump. Games that are inherently simple and easy to play. Infinity Blade has an original yet simple concept similar to other mobile games yet it branches out in a direction that no other game had ever tried. By forcing you to practice over and over and buy new gear and level up your characters this game no longer feels causal.
There is a big difference between causal and mobile games. These two game types are often roped together. I believe this a misconception that grew out of the limited capabilities that mobile games had during their early years. Apps were just a way to entertain yourself when you had a free second. They consisted of the basics, because that all we thought we needed. I would argue that the Infinity Blade series changed the mobile gaming scene by showing everyone just how complex and stunning apps can be. The series is a trilogy and it was wildly popular. People would play it as religiously as console games, anxiously awaiting the next episode to be released. Infinity Blade broke the mold and proved that a mobile game does not have to be casual.
Infinity Blade III incentivizes you to play more with complex side plots and powerful rewards for diligence. There are legendary weapons that can be collected and used to fight off the evil “deathless” the player can only acquire them through hours and hours of gameplay. The game can be completed without the need to spend real money or wait crazy amounts of real time for upgrades. It is a full game, it is not casual, it is just mobile.
Overwatch is an online first person shooter. It is played on Computers and Consuls; the two systems play the same. What’s struck me about Overwatch is the story. As in most Online shooters there is no single player, or “story” missions. The game can be played with no knowledge of any of the characters … Continue reading “Overwatch A Hidden Narrative”
Overwatch is an online first person shooter. It is played on Computers and Consuls; the two systems play the same. What’s struck me about Overwatch is the story. As in most Online shooters there is no single player, or “story” missions. The game can be played with no knowledge of any of the characters or why they are fighting. In game there are no clear good guys and bad guys because two of the same character could potentially face off against each other. Instead the lore of the game can be found online. Every object in the game and every character its own complex background.
The only time any from is story is mentioned in-game is through shot automated dialog between two characters before the start of a match. Specific characters when on the same team will say dialog back and forth based off their interactions/background in the lore. There are many games that use this design in order increase accessibility. How this works is that Overwatch will write and produce a background story for the game and its characters, but it will not force it into the actual gameplay. Instead the lore is available for curious and dedicated fans who wish to learn more. Blizzard, the company that created Overwatch, created videos online that served as marketing and story. The clips show interactions between characters in a fun and visually appealing manor.
Personally I believe stories are what make a game great. I need to feel engaged with the characters and care about their own narratives. Without having context a game feels very flat. Consider Call of Duty multiplayer. You know nothing about the character you play as except what team they are on. It fun in terms of mechanics, but it lacks the depth of games such as Overwatch. The unique abilities and storylines really separate characters from one another and bring the player further into the game 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.
In my opinion, the Pokémon series was always a game series for hardcore gamers. With type advantages, and the stats of various Pokémon to memorize and manipulate, it always seemed daunting to take my experience as a casual gamer into … Continue reading →
In my opinion, the Pokémon series was always a game series for hardcore gamers. With type advantages, and the stats of various Pokémon to memorize and manipulate, it always seemed daunting to take my experience as a casual gamer into the Pokémon world. However, when comparing my experience playing Pokémon X to the characteristics of casual games found in Jesper Juul’s, “What is Casual,” I found it extremely difficult to clearly classify Pokémon X as a casual or hardcore game.
The first characteristic of a casual game is fiction. The cover of Pokémon X immediately clues the player into the game’s fictional setting. Taking place in a world populated by colorful cartoonish animals known as Pokémon, the game quite obviously satisfies this requirement.
The cover to Pokémon X’s box shows the positive fiction used in the game by highlighting one of the cartoonish and colorful Pokémon found in the game
It should be noted however, that Pokémon X contains some fictions more closely associated with hardcore videogames. Throughout the game, the player must battle the villainous Team Flare, a group of thugs who commit various crimes in an attempt to take over the world. This effort culminates in the activation of an “ultimate weapon” which has the power to kill all the Pokémon in the world (see video below). The inherent dangers of these plot points and setting provide an experience more characteristic of a hardcore game rather than a casual game.
Like the blurred aspects of Pokémon X’s fiction, the usability of the game also does not clearly classify it as a casual or hardcore game. The majority of Pokémon X’s controls are easy to use and understand. To move the protagonist, the player pushes the arrows of the control pad and there is a button for performing actions and another for canceling actions. However, Pokémon X also relies on a turn-based combat system that could be confusing to novice players. The turn-based combat relies more on the manipulation of stats (as the fastest Pokémon attacks first) and the player’s careful planning rather than a free-for-all combat system which allows the player to simply push buttons until their opponent is subdued.
The Pokémon series has many long-term fans, yet still attracts new players. The inability of Pokémon X to be clearly classified as a casual or hardcore game could explain the universal appeal of these games. Even if we take into account Juul’s remaining three aspects of casual games, the classification is still foggy as some aspects (interruptibility) push the game towards becoming a casual game, while others (difficulty/punishment and juiciness) are more reminiscent of hardcore games. These blurred lines suggest that Pokémon X is a much more complex game than it might appear, or that Juul’s classifications are not as clear and universal as they seem.
Juul, Jesper. “What Is Casual.” A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2010. 25-63. Print.