When doing some digging regarding Fallout 4, I came across many gamers of past Fallout games who were miffed by the lack of a karma system in the newest game of the series. The Karma system in these games was affected by almost every action done by the player, as good acts cause positive changes, … Continue reading “Moral Code as a Hindrance to Truly Free Play”
When doing some digging regarding Fallout 4, I came across many gamers of past Fallout games who were miffed by the lack of a karma system in the newest game of the series. The Karma system in these games was affected by almost every action done by the player, as good acts cause positive changes, while negative acts invoke negative changes. In his article written about the game series in 2009, prior to Fallout 4’s release, “Moral Decision Making in Fallout”, Marcus Schulzke claims “the Fallout series is unique in giving players an open world in which they can make genuine moral choices. Moral dilemmas are not presented for passive contemplation – they are an integral part of gameplay”(Schulzke).
And having now played Fallout 4 for a significant time, I feel this feature gets lost. Schulzke talks about how Fallout 3’s lack of a moral code is a strength of the game, promoting immersion in the same way that a person is not bound to any particular moral code(Schulzke). In this sense, the game can be played however the operator wants to play it. Whether he wants to blow
up every town and become a “Devil” or save the world and become a “Messiah” (Devil and Messiah, titles bestowed by the game depending on a player’s level and karma, are the highest evil and good titles that one can receive), the choice can be made freely, and the game will adapt around your choices, allowing the player an individual path through the narrative that is influenced by their choices. But this choice is absent in Fallout 4, and instead there is a system where the main character gets “Affinity” depending on how his companions respond to his decisions. Similar, but also very different. And while this is interesting, I would’ve much rather played Fallout 3 and had the karma.
Perhaps Bethesda listened to criticism regarding the game’s lack of morals imposed on a character and decided to invoke a moral code. However, making important NPC’s invincible, or forcing certain important quests and factions upon the player regardless of their choices goes against the fabric of the series, causing a seismic shift in how free the player really is within the game.
Schulzke, Marcus. “Moral Decision Making in Fallout.” Game Studies9.2 (2009): n. pag. Gamestudies.org. Web.
As I alluded to previously, Fallout 4 tells a sad story at the start, and a large part of this story comes in the environment. The more I play, the more I discover how terrible of a spot the protagonist is in. He went from living in a nice, bright house pre nuclear fallout, then we given false hope by a similarly tidy vault, only to find himself alone in a vast nuclear ravaged wasteland. In game, he is surrounded by nothing but destroyed buildings, abandoned cities, and pools of nuclear waste.
What this scenery does for the game is it causes the player to not only see the fallout, but play through it. Empty buildings become hiding spots for enemies, and cities get overrun by bandits who shoot on sight. The game’s use of environmental storytelling helps create an immersive experience in its realistic representation of what a potential suburban life post nuclear fallout might look like. In Henry Jenkins’ article “Game Design as Narrative Architecture”, he quotes Disney designer Bob Carson on the use of this method of storytelling: “The story element is infused into the physical space. . . . It is the physical space that does much of the work of conveying the story the designers are trying to tell”(123). Jenkins uses the example of Disney theme parks to convey his point, noting how the atmosphere and layout of the attraction play onto the visitor’s prior knowledge of the parks to create a new experience. Going to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is one thing, but going in with the foresight of the plots of the movies as well as hearing and seeing familiar sights and sounds amplifies the experience.
In this regard, Fallout 4 is not much different. It plays off of prior thoughts of what a fallout might look like, giving it sounds of a nuclear wasteland, and the architecture that would be expected in such a time. This is a very effective method as in open world games such as Fallout 4, it is near impossible to have a linear narrative. Thus, the use of environmental storytelling allows game designers to use the mise-en-scene to enhance and extend the narrative.
Jenkins, Henry. First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2004. Web.
Having never played a Fallout game before, I wasn’t sure what to expect before I started playing Fallout 4. I knew that I was in for an expansive RPG centered around surviving nuclear fallout, but that was about it. But one thing I didn’t expect was the cold-blooded murder of the character’s wife and the … Continue reading “Empathy Provoked in Fallout”
Having never played a Fallout game before, I wasn’t sure what to expect before I started playing Fallout 4. I knew that I was in for an expansive RPG centered around surviving nuclear fallout, but that was about it. But one thing I didn’t expect was the cold-blooded murder of the character’s wife and the theft of his child within ten minutes of the game starting. I was surprised, as to me it seems a dubious decision to start off a very anticipated game with such negativity and sadness. However, as I played on, I started feeling sorry for the guy and I realized that my character was no longer just any other videogame protagonist, there solely to shoot and kill and explore- he was a man on a mission to find his lost child.
The empathetic feelings provoked early on were then tapped into again shortly after escaping the Vault. The protagonist discovers a dog wandering about all alone in the nuclear wasteland, and takes him to be his companion. This taps into the societal norm of a dog being man’s best friend, and you begin to feel the same feelings as before, but in a different light. You begin to feel sorry for the dog that he’s in the situation, but also hopeful that he will help the survivor.
Ian Bogost has a chapter on empathy in his book “How to do Things With Videogames”, and in it he discusses a Zelda game where at the beginning, Link is far too weak to rescue his sister from the Forbidden Fortress, but later comes back much stronger to handily do the job (19). In a sense, Fallout 4 starts the same way. The protagonist’s child is taken from him very early on while he is unable to help, but presumably he will rescue the baby when he has become strong enough. While the games are drastically different in both narrative and mechanics, they both provoke an experience of weakness that fosters empathy, while leaving the door open to finding the necessary strength to succeed in the latter parts of the game.
Bogost, Ian. How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2011. Print.
As I have already talked about in a previous posts, Evoland provokes many nostalgic feelings towards past adventure games and movies. Here, I hope to expand on this thought, discussing different ways that Evoland uses nostalgia. Zach Whalen edited a book on nostalgia in video games in 2008, and within it there is a chapter … Continue reading “Use of Nostalgia to Make Evoland “Cool””
As I have already talked about in a previous posts, Evoland provokes many nostalgic feelings towards past adventure games and movies. Here, I hope to expand on this thought, discussing different ways that Evoland uses nostalgia. Zach Whalen edited a book on nostalgia in video games in 2008, and within it there is a chapter by Sean Fenty entitled “Why Old School is ‘Cool’: A Brief Analysis of Classic Video Game Nostalgia. When talking about what motivates a nostalgia in games, he proclaims “Designers must motivate players to put forth the effort involved in playing. They need to set goals and give rewards; they need to set up a situation that will make players want to succeed at the game and want to learn the rhythm of things”(25). He takes it a step further by saying if this is not accomplished, then the game will not foster nostalgia, but will be forgotten.
With this in mind, it is worth looking at some games/ movies mentioned in Evoland: The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Skyrim, Lord of the Rings, Mario, Diablo, and League of Legends. All of these games are popular titles with significant name value. All the games mentioned successfully achieve what Fenty sets down. Thus, Evoland, not in a manipulative sense, uses the success of other games to drive its own success. It plays off nostalgic feelings established by prior games and implements them in a way to make its own game more playable.
In addition, Henty uses the term “playing the past” in his chapter. This also applies to Evoland as further in the game, the player must go back in time in order to advance the gameplay. This takes the game back to the older graphics, again promoting thoughts of older games with 2d graphics. This, to paraphrase Henty, causes players to yearn for the game, as they represent the past while also giving the players a chance to play in the past. As such, Evoland, despite being a new game, invokes the same feelings as the classics, thus putting it in the same nostalgic category of “cool”.
Whalen, Zach, Laurie N. Taylor, and Sean Fenty. Playing the Past: History and Nostalgia in Video Games. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP, 2008. Web.
2As previously mentioned, Evoland is filled with nods in the direction of old adventure games. It seems impossible to progress more than a couple minutes without getting another reference to a past game or film. And while Evoland’s story is independant of the past games and it is presented as a game that tracks histories … Continue reading “Evoland: A Salute to the Trailblazers of the Adventure Genre”
2As previously mentioned, Evoland is filled with nods in the direction of old adventure games. It seems impossible to progress more than a couple minutes without getting another reference to a past game or film. And while Evoland’s story is independant of the past games and it is presented as a game that tracks histories of role playing games, it’s character development as well as other elements of the gameplay are built on a foundation of reverence to past successful titles. Ian Bogost talks about reverence in his book “How to do Things With Videogames”, and while he mainly addresses this issue in regards to cities and monuments, it acts the same way with other videogames.
Bogost spends a lot of time within the chapter talking about the inclusion of the Manchester Cathedral in Resistance: Fall of Man. A large part of his argument is centered around how its inclusion as a key level in the game appreciates the cathedral’s relevance more than it depreciates it (27). I agree with Bogost here, as in my personal experience the inclusion of monuments or cities tends to add relevance to a certain area, rather than detract from it. Evoland acts the same way, as it adds to the lore and significance of the games mentioned, almost explicitly pointing out that Zelda or Final Fantasy set the bar for future adventure games. Another point of this is that Evoland’s narrative does not require any aspects from past games; rather they act as a compliment, calling upon the success and recognition value to supplement the story at various points.
Furthermore, this use of reverence allows Evoland to be elevated from any general adventure narrative and becomes one filled with acknowledgements of its predecessors successes in order to generate excitement within the game. For example, as someone who has played Skyrim, Evoland’s use of an otherwise stagnant character to tell Clink how he once took an arrow to the knee turned a dull moment of interaction with an NPC into a rather humorous moment, while paying homage to another successful game of the same genre. Evoland uses reverence very frequently, and to good effect. I have never come across such a game, and it a rather fitting example of just one of many things to do with video games.
Evoland is a mobile game that is centered around one member of the Order of Dragon Knights, with a default name of Clink, as he attempts to save Evolandia from evil. This is a very unique game in many aspects. As it probably can’t be called a “casual” game, it falls more into the adventure … Continue reading “Nostalgia in Evoland”
Evoland is a mobile game that is centered around one member of the Order of Dragon Knights, with a default name of Clink, as he attempts to save Evolandia from evil. This is a very unique game in many aspects. As it probably can’t be called a “casual” game, it falls more into the adventure or role playing game category, similar to playing a Legend of Zelda game. However, it lacks the seriousness of a true adventure game, and spends a lot of time commenting on similar, familiar titles. But what it lacks in intensity it makes up for in nostalgia, as it references numerous games and movies of a similar genre.
Evoland was designed to plot the history of RPG’s, and change as the player gets further along. The game experience starts with 8-bit color on a 2d side scroller resembling the game “Passage” that was played earlier in the semester. However, soon into playing the game many upgrades are found, unlocking graphics and mechanics upgrades in chests around the map. These give you weapons, add in more colors, increase resolution, allow you to save, and add meaning to the game. For example, there is no back story to start the game- but when the “Storyline” milestone is unlocked, Clink’s mission is revealed.
As previously mentioned, one thing that I noticed in Evoland is the references to other games. This, along with with its old school graphics at the beginning, foster a strong sense of nostalgia as Clink wanders through the map. Within Evoland, there are numerous references to older games, most notably Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy games. The names Klink and Kaeris, Clink’s companion, are references to Link in the Zelda games and Aeris in the Final Fantasy series. To name a few more, Klink’s adventure takes him to the “Noria Mines” (very similar to the Mines of Moria in The Lord of The Rings), his items, including bombs, a bow and a sword, bear a strong resemblance to those of Link (including a legendary sword opposed to a master sword), and the currency is a gli, compared to the gils of Final Fantasy.
In doing this, Evoland morphs into more of a meta-game, commenting on generic adventure themes and tropes throughout, while also serving as an ode to the classics. And while it is unique in its presentation and format are the main feature of the game, its storyline and allusions contribute in a way to elevate it beyond a simple mobile game.
Part of what makes Dragon Age: Inquisition so enthralling is the sheer magnitude of storylines and interactivity. Within the game you can choose to accept or deny the allegiance of different factions or choose the fate of sworn enemies, with your choices not only affecting the storyline but also the gameplay itself. And after doing … Continue reading “My Choices, My Play: Living Vicariously Through the Inquisitor”
Part of what makes Dragon Age: Inquisition so enthralling is the sheer magnitude of storylines and interactivity. Within the game you can choose to accept or deny the allegiance of different factions or choose the fate of sworn enemies, with your choices not only affecting the storyline but also the gameplay itself. And after doing some research surrounding Dragon Age: Inquisition and its characteristics, I came across an interesting piece “Narrative Structure and Player Experience in Role-Playing Games”. In it, authors Christopher Moser and Xiaowen Fang explore how a branching narrative structure within a game has a positive impact on play, and doing so they analyze the impact salient decision points have on the player’s perception of the game’s play and narrative.
Throughout the article, they discuss how the number of key decision points impacts a game’s play and narrative. This relates to DA: I as at many points in the game, the inquisitor( the player’s character) is often presented with a choice: to recruit this agent, to enlist the help of this group or an opposing one: to accept the help a playable companion or not. And the more choices that come along, the more apparent the Inquisitors choices become. Certain choices affect other companion’s morale, and open or close new questlines. Through these choices, I have a chance to make my Inquisitor’s narrative unique from someone else’s, all the while impacting the potential branching narratives throughout the game.
As Moser and Fang write regarding this type of narrative: “Users can experience a dynamic story that unfolds in realistic, individualized directions, and users can experience narrative causal agency, which mediates the experience of the story” (146). I thoroughly enjoyed this part of DA: I. The ability to have place my stamp within on a game’s emergent narratives creates a strong sense of involvement and fosters an enjoyment of the game. As I played, I realized that the choices I was making where choices that I would actually make; it was less following a linear storyline throughout, and more about personal tastes, allowing a level of immersion that I did not expect when I started playing.
Moser, Christopher, and Xiaowen Fang. “Narrative Structure and Player Experience in Role-Playing Games.” International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction31.2 (2014): 146-56. Web.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I was very intrigued by the tactical view in Dragon Age: Inquisition. After rereading Alexander Galloway’s essay on Gamic Action, I found his description of a subjective algorithm as a style of gamic action, what he defines as “a code intervention exerted from both within gameplay and without … Continue reading “Dragon Age’s Tactical View as a Subjective Algorithm”
As I mentioned in my previous post, I was very intrigued by the tactical view in Dragon Age: Inquisition. After rereading Alexander Galloway’s essay on Gamic Action, I found his description of a subjective algorithm as a style of gamic action, what he defines as “a code intervention exerted from both within gameplay and without gameplay in the form of the nondiegetic operator act”, very relatable to this feature (37). Likewise, in reference to the graph pictured below, this style of play falls squarely into the quadrant of nondiegetic operator acts as a configuring action executed by the operator that acts on the interior game world.
After playing around with this feature, I found it to be actually quite challenging. It creates a situation where the operator must be totally in control: I had to know how to play each class correctly and effectively in order for their skill sets to complement each other in the context of a battle. When playing in third person combat mode, it never occurred to me what the other playable characters in my party were doing- as long as they weren’t dying or in my way, they were essentially irrelevant in the context of my experience. In fact, for a long period of play I had a companion who was doing less than 1/10th of my damage. This severely limited the effectiveness of the group, but it took a while to notice as I was only focused with my main character. With the tactical view, this mind set goes away, and you assume a role that requires the knowledge of all. This view in a way encapsulates what a modern war represents. Generals and high ranking officials in a room as the operator, weighing their options and considering the weapons they have at their disposal as they decide which is the best proceed in the given scenario.
While modern day warfare is miles apart from a mythical video game, the interpretation of the nondiegetic operator as a proxy for real life examples is accurate. Galloway provides some basis for this, referring to these nondiegetic operator acts derived from subjective algorithms as allegories for the informatic culture of today’s algorithmic structure. To close with a quote from Galloway: “Video games render social realities into playable form” (17).
Galloway, Alexander R. Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2006. Print.
Having already played Dragon Age: Inquisition, I was familiar with the combat controls, character classes and races, and the general storyline. But after sitting down to play again, I realized a feature that I had all but overlooked prior to replaying- the tactical view. The tactical view takes the diegetic action out of the combat, … Continue reading “A Change of Pace- Actually Using the Tactical View”
Having already played Dragon Age: Inquisition, I was familiar with the combat controls, character classes and races, and the general storyline. But after sitting down to play again, I realized a feature that I had all but overlooked prior to replaying- the tactical view. The tactical view takes the diegetic action out of the combat, and instead lets you control your team of four from above. This view allows for the use of nondiegetic actions, such as pausing the action or speeding up time as you please, as well as gives you total control over the team, choosing which abilities they use and when and where they are positioned throughout the battle.
This is by all means a very cool and unique feature in DA:I. One thing that it does is it allows the combat system to be multi-dimensional, and gives the player a choice between an experience similar to a real-time strategy game or that of a third-person combat game. I frequently find games with a repetitive combat style, like Assassin’s Creed for example, to become boring the further into the game I get as all the fights are the same- counter, attack, counter, counter, etc. But with the tactical view, this goes away. DA: I allows for the in-game combat to take upon both a diegetic style and nondiegetic style, letting the player choose freely between the two as he/she progresses. The extra dimension reminds me of the lean-forward or lean-back style of play previously discussed in class, and the use of the tactical view allows for the combat in DA: I to be both. Lean forward and be focused on the real time combat, or lean back and control the whole party from afar.
While it a fun and useful feature of combat- I am not sold on how useful it will be in a difficult fight. Is it possible for it to be even more effective than controlling my character while the CPU controls the others? As I continue to play, I hope to experiment further with the tactical view, and see how it practical it is as the game’s difficulty progresses.
When playing through Portal again, having already beaten it, a new thing that caught my attention was how easy it is to play and replay the game. I normally am one who doesn’t find much entertainment in replaying games, but playing Portal a second time through I feel as engaged as the first time through. And having read the Henry Jenkins article … Continue reading “Portal’s Replay Value”
When playing through Portal again, having already beaten it, a new thing that caught my attention was how easy it is to play and replay the game. I normally am one who doesn’t find much entertainment in replaying games, but playing Portal a second time through I feel as engaged as the first time through. And having read the Henry Jenkins article “Game Design As Narrative Architecture”, I think this replay value comes from the detail that is put into the game that adds to its immersive nature. The more I play, the more I feel I know about Aperture Labs, or about GLaDOS. Because the game is embedded with a strong presence of the environmental storytelling that Jenkins alludes to, it not only creates a better play through the first time, but also adds value and entertainment to the game past completion. In addition, the game designers did a very good job of using the environmental storytelling aspect of Portal to slowly tell the story of the game. It was easy to follow, but also very rewarding as each completed level not only meant a new terrain but also more plot information.
Another very unique thing regarding Portal is the addition of Developer Commentary into the game. You have to have beaten the game before accessing the game mode, but it is very interesting to hear comments from the developers as you go through the levels. For instance, on one level, a player found a short cut that bypassed the majority of the level. However, instead of fixing the “bug”, the developers rewarded the players for their ingenuity in discovering the short cut and left it in the game. And while this doesn’t necessarily impact the environmental storytelling or the embedded narrative in the game, it does provide some insight about what was going through the developers’ minds while creating Portal.