Jumping for jewels

In my casual game post I have chosen to write about the game Bejeweled. Bejeweled is a tile match puzzle game, originally released by the company PopCap in 2001 for PCs, however since then it has undergone numerous ports to other devices and several re-releases. The version I am playing is the app titled Bejeweled Classic and contains several game modes. For this blog post however, I played only the classic game mode, of which the objective is to switch the position of two adjacent gems in efforts to create a line of 3 or 4 of the same gems. Doing this leads to that row/column of gems disappearing and being replaced by the gems above them with new gems falling in from the top. This continues until you have a score high enough to move on to another level (where the gems are shuffled) or until you can no longer create new matches. The controls for the game are fairly intuitive, requiring the player to only tap on the two adjacent gems they would like to switch, allowing the basics of the controls to be learned in under a minute. A large portion of success in this game is dependent on chance given how the original alignment of the gems, as well as the order in which they fall out of the sky is entirely random. However, despite the element of luck there is a certain nuance in recognizing patterns that can lead to combos or certain power-ups by achieving certain arrangements of gems. Bejeweled is a fairly simple game which is easy to learn and can be an excellent time-killer, as I have learned in the hour and a half I spent mindlessly matching gems. It takes a fairly simple format and adds just enough bells and whistles to keep you occupied for hours on end.

Source: Jumping for jewels

The Addictiveness of Balls and Numbers

Source

The mobile game Ballz checks off every characteristic of the “casual game.” It has a pause button which allows the player to stop and resume at any time. There is a fixed map which everything takes place on and every interaction can be easily learned in a short amount of time. In fact, there is only one thing you can do in the game. Aim.

The objective of the game is to bounce your ball off the randomly generated blocks. The blocks contain a number of at least one and gradually increases with each round. Each bounce with the ball causes the number to decrease by one and the block disappears once it hits 0. If any block reaches the bottom, the game is over. Like many casual games, Ballz is deceptively simple. I found myself getting stuck in the 30s for days at a time. While the mechanics of the game are easy to learn, they are difficult to master. It’s all in the angles. After playing several hundred rounds of the game and making it to Round 121, I realized that only way to advance is to bounce the balls off slightly horizontally so it rapidly builds momentum and destroy blocks left and right. The game is more or less built on repetition and luck (as you do not know how many blocks will enter the frame the next round, what number they will be, or what position they will be in).

In terms of “juiciness” or positive feedback loops, the game is similar to Tetris. We like having the ability to destroy and simultaneously clear spaces. There is a counter in the upper corner which shows your high score, incentivizing people to play more and beat their own record. Like many app store games, there are some microtransactions as you can buy points which enables you to change the color of your ball. That’s it. A simple reskinning. Unlike other games such as Candy Crush or Clash of the Clans, there is no buying of lives or “pay-to-win” strategies. Your money only gets you a tiny, superficial aspect of the game, an option of individualization. The strongest contrast between Ballz and other mobile games is that it has no narrative. Unless, you want to compare it to workers getting doing their work only to receive an exponentially large course load, but I wouldn’t read into it that deeply. Given its simplicity in both mechanics and aesthetic, Ballz is a definitive example of a casual game.

Source: The Addictiveness of Balls and Numbers

Game Log 1 – 3: Rocket League: Explosions & Adrenaline

For my third category of game for my game log, I chose Rocket League. The game is pretty simple. You play a variation of 2 v 2, 3 v 3, etc soccer as a car. As you might imagine, controlling a car to volley, pass, and shoot like you would as a human being in a soccer game is difficult. In fact, somewhat similar to Peggle, this game uses a difficulty curve, albeit a much sharper one, to get you hooked. I’ve played Rocket League before, but I was pretty rusty. My first few games involved lots of me missing the ball, overhitting passes, and overshooting the goal with frustrating inaccuracy. Thankfully, I gradually become more competent and began being matched with better players. After a while, the gap between my play and that of my opponents became immense again, and not in my favor.

These guys were driving on the walls, speeding around the map, and essentially exploring dimensions of the game totally outside of my capability. I felt good enough to not feel inept at the game. However, there was a clear reward for putting in more time to refine skills. In other words, this game had a relatively low barrier to entry giving the player a sense of accomplishment when achieving a sort of basic competency, but there’s also serious depth!

This game also had some serious juiciness that made the action exciting. Whenever you score a goal in Rocket League, the ball doesn’t just hit the back of the net. It creates a huge explosion that blows all that players goals in the opposite direction of the goal with seismic force, all in SLOW MOTION. It was like playing an action movie….playing soccer…as a car.

The world of Rocket League takes place in a diverse array of arenas. These levels differ in not only appearance but also gameplay-impacting level design. This provided a sort of variety to the game as I honed my skills within the same gameplay mode. This awesome combination of gameplay mechanic design and visual juiciness and variance created an addicting experience, as I intended to only play for 30 minutes and ended up playing for much much longer.

Source: Game Log 1 – 3: Rocket League: Explosions & Adrenaline

Super Casual Bros

I have been playing Super Mario Strikers for the Nintendo Gamecube and it is a good example of what a casual game plays like according to Jesper Juul. While it does fall under the category of agon and can be very competitive, it does fit into all five categories set out by Juul. To begin, the cover of the game is a picture of Mario and Donkey Kong playing a pretty fierce game of soccer. These two characters are well known throughout Nintendo and while they do look intense, knowing that it is a Mario game lets the player know that it will be a pleasant game. If you have had any experience with a GameCube controller, the controls of the game will come easily. The game has two or three important buttons for beginners but once the player gets a hang of the game can use all the buttons on the controller to perfect their playing style. Each match can be set to different settings, but the standard time limit is five minutes. The game can also be paused any time and played later so it has a high level of interuptibility. Losing the game to your opponent is the biggest punishment the game has. While playing the game, if you do something illegal, the player gets a classic Mario shell to throw around which is also a small punishment. In general, since the matches are so short, there is a very low level of punishment for the player. Lastly Super Mario Strikers has a high level of juiciness. If the player does something well within the match, like get a shot on target, the player is rewarded with a Mario shell to throw which provides very quick feedback. When a goal is scored a dramatic replay is shown and when players perform their special shot a cool cut scene is played. I would say I am a casual gamer and this game fits my style perfectly so that I can play a short game in-between class or play a couple games at night with a friend.

This shows Yoshi during a super strike. The green fire and stars show the juiciness of the game.

 

Source: Super Casual Bros

Cars and Guns and Bank Heists, Oh my!

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5) is a great example of a hardcore game. The storyline starts immediately, thrusting the player into an intense bank heist. This type of negative plot is especially appealing to hardcore gamers. You earn money by killing people, escaping the cops, robbing stores, etc. To become competitive in the online portion of the game, you have to put a lot of time into leveling up and buying gear. One unusual part of this hardcore game is the interruptibility, which is very high. You can pause the game at any point and come back to it later. There isn’t any real punishment in the game, when you die you lose a small portion of your money and respawn in the middle of the map. Sound plays a large role in GTA 5, with a large variety of music available through any vehicle’s radio. It is up to the player to choose what music they want to listen to, which appeals to a lot of people. It is evident how much time the game designers put into the games audio. Every car, motorcycle, plane, bike has its own unique and identifiable sound. The most appealing part of the game is its storyline, which gives you the chance to follow three different characters along three extremely different paths. You can play only with one main character or all three, and gives the player a lot of freedom while the game designers still have control over the deep narrative. One negative aspect of GTA is the confusing controls, and it doesn’t do a very good job of explaining them either. The button layout doesn’t follow any other stereotypical console game, making it difficult to figure out and get accustomed to them. GTA 5 would fall under the category of Agon, since it is a competitive hardcore game that is necessary for the user to be skilled at driving, shooting, and navigating the map. Not many games can claim to have better graphics than GTA 5, which provides an accurate, real world space in Los Angeles, California. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a very successful franchise because of its immersive gameplay. Hardcore gamers enjoy all of the possibilities that come with ranking up and completing challenges, while casual gamers can enjoy cruising through the streets in a number of vehicles. I would say that GTA 5 doesn’t fit my playstyle because I consider myself a more casual gamer, however my time playing was still very enjoyable because of the variety of mini games and tasks offered in game.

Source: Cars and Guns and Bank Heists, Oh my!

FREE GAME!!!

League of Legends, produced by RIOT games, is one of the most popular online computer games in the world. It has the most live streams from twitch (a video game streaming site) and has a total of 27 million users, PER DAY. This game is a revamp of an older games, those include World of Warcraft Frozen Throne and StarCraft. These games were popular games in the gaming community, however, didn’t come anywhere close to the popularity of League of Legends. But how did LOL get so big?

First, let me explain the goal of the game. The objective of this game is to destroy the enemy base. You choose a champion based off a list of 134 (not all of which you have access to immediately), all with different skills and abilities, and fight an opponent or multiple opponent. Within this game there are different ways of playing, for example there are 5v5 games, 3v3 or ARAM. All of which are played against real people from all over your region. This type of social feature increased league popularity but wasn’t the big turning point.

However, the big catch to League of Legends, and the reason Riot games became one of the leading game manufacturers, is simply due to the cost and accessibility of League. Most other games before it like StarCraft or Frozen Throne you had to go to a story to buy, it cost around 60$ to buy, and both games were rated M. However, League of Legends , you are able to download from your home, it is rated pg-13, and (drum roll please) it was also FREE. It cost nothing to download and start playing the game. This takes the Razorblade example in class to a whole other level. Riot makes no money when people download the game, however, once people are in the game, the have the option to buy things, and of course people do!

Riot’s sheer popularity by allowing the game to be free, ends up generates much more money. This strategy and tactic by RIOT games truly took the video game world by storm and transformed the way companies are marketing their products.

 

Work Cited:

Most Watched Games on Twitch | Esports Content and Totalhttps://newzoo.com/insights/rankings/top-games-twitch/. Accessed 2 Feb. 2018.

How Riot Games Created the Most Popular Game in the World | Fortunehttp://fortune.com/2013/07/10/how-riot-games-created-the-most-popular-game-in-the-world/. Accessed 2 Feb. 2018.

 

Source: FREE GAME!!!

There’s a Ferris Wheel in My Home

While exploring Virtual Reality games I stumbled upon a game called Fun House. Naturally attracted by the name I enter the Fun House. As I enter the Fun House I am greeted by directions and a classic carnival game. Fun House is a Virtual Reality game that takes a bunch of classic carnival games and bring them into your home, or wherever you play Virtual Reality. This is so fascinating because of the rarity of carnivals in today’s time. In my home town, we had a small carnival come through once a year. The carnival usually came through during football season and I was too busy, tired, or traveling to attend. I’ve been before but my parents were not big fans of letting me visit the carnival with my friends and freely roam to play the games. With Fun House, it seems that the carnival experience is right at my fingertips, well without the sound of unstable roller coasters, screaming children, and frying foods. Fun House had over seven easily accessible carnival games. You could save your high score, skip, and repeat games. This allowed these classical carnival games to become timeless. Through Fun House the player is allowed to do some games that have the carnival feeling but would have been very dangerous for the actual carnival. For example, in one game the player’s hands are swords and the objective is to slice through as many balloons as possible in sixty seconds. I am almost positive that most parents would not allow children to use three-foot steel covered blades to pop balloons. I also think that would not go well for the companies’ insurance. This experience is incomparable to using buttons or a joy stick to complete actions because you are completely emerged into the experience. Also Fun House has just the perfect color schemes, amount of sand, and other settings that make you feel like you are at a carnival.

Here are the Stainless Steel Swords viciously attaching the balloons.

Basketball VR

 

Source: There’s a Ferris Wheel in My Home

Tearjerker

The gaming console I grew up on was the PS2. It’s fitting then that two of the best video games of all time in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and The Last of Us were released exclusively on the Playstation. I loved the Uncharted series, but was never able to make the time investment during high school to play The Last Of Us, which was released on the PS3 and remastered on the PS4.

The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic horror game and unlike the trend of the last 10 years, The Last of Us does what other games couldn’t through it’s visual and sound components, as well as its in-depth character development. I felt the visual graphics are insanely well-made. The attention to detail gives the impression of how if the developers and creators were heavily invested, then the people playing were going to be heavily invested as well, albeit emotionally speaking.

From the start, you’re emotionally invested in the characters and the game doesn’t hesitate to rip your heart out. As Henry Jenkins said, “The tone of voice and body language can powerfully express specific emotional states.” When Joel’s daughter who is around 8-12 years old is killed, the graphics were able to depict the anguish and despair on Joel’s face. You could feel some sort of empathy with the character even though is all made up and taking place in a virtual world. So I think that factor of emotional attachment is something that we haven’t really discussed in class that much.  The emotional atmosphere of The Last of Us was not really existent in the Uncharted series until the fourth game, A Thief’s End was released in 2016, more than three years after The Last of Us came out.

The musical component of the game is pretty melancholy and suspenseful and keeps you on your toes, which is fitting especially when I couldn’t hear the clickers until they already killed me from behind. You know stuff is about to go down, but you don’t know exactly what is going to happen. That suspense keeps the player engaged.

The environment and setting in the game were illustrated as overrun and dilapidated, giving you a sense of ill foreboding about what was going to occur next. You want to get through the game as quick as possible, but the cutscenes succeed in making you stick around. Regardless, while most games are meant to entertain the gamers for brief periods of time, The Last of Us combines the perfect blend of cinematic cut scenes with open-world exploration in combination with a linear storyline.

Source: Tearjerker

Dying from Death

In previous classes at Davidson I have discussed different art themes, one of my most favorite being the theme of the Uncanny. I am a big fan of scary movies and games because of the rush I receive by playing them. This rush can be amplified to high levels especially through media like movies and video games. Especially Virtual Reality video games. In Death is a virtual reality game based on the premise that you have been transported to “purgatory” and you have to rid it of the creatures that live there, namely demonic archers and knights. It is one of the few games to have given me a true moment of fear by how well it can encompass the uncanny.

In Death Gameplay

The first element of the Uncanny that players will notice about the game is how the soundtrack creates an immersive and eerie sounding world. The creaks of the castles you navigate, the sounds of arrows piercing flesh, and the sounds of souls rushing past you create a world that keeps you looking behind you for something evil. These sounds are complemented by a world that upon first glance looks familiar but you soon realize is anything but, a hallmark for the Uncanny. There are seemingly endless drops and spaces so dark you cannot even see your enemy, that both evoke fear of the unknown, another Uncanny characteristic. The enemies are also quite large, appearing at around 7 ft tall for some of them.

The Uncanny characteristics of In Death render the world an immersive and intense place, perfect for loosing yourself in a game. I wanted to hit on the danger of this, however. TASS a Russian news agency recently reported a case of a man dying while playing virtual reality games alone. According to the report the man tripped into a glass table and after cutting himself on the resulting broken glass, ended up bleeding out. According to PCGamer.com this is the first case of someone dying while playing VR. There are possibly many other dangerous situations regarding virtual reality gaming. The immersive nature of games such as In Death are spectacular sights to behold but need to be approached with caution.

Source: Dying from Death

Replayable Mechanics in a World of Chaos

Just Cause 3 is at first just another ridiculous-action, shoot-the-bad-guys game.  The game’s story is shallow, yet enjoyable, but its mechanics are the reason I keep coming back to play this game over and over again.  Instead of running everywhere, players are encouraged to use their wrist-mounted grappling hooks to reel themselves across the world at high speed.  Moving quickly through the air?  Open your parachute at any time and stay up even longer.  Use your grappling hook while parachuting and reel in to achieve limitless airtime.  Crave flight but parachuting is too slow for you?  Use your wingsuit instead, but be careful of trees and the ground, as they’ll knock you out of the sky if you get too close.  These are some of the most unique movement mechanics I have ever used in a game, and they make the experience a blast every time.  Although JC3 allows the player to summon a large variety of vehicles at any time, I most often find myself wingsuiting through the cities, islands and mountains of the game world.  Although some challenges spread throughout the game world will reset your progress if you slip up, on the whole the game is not very punishing: there is a limited health pool for your character, but it is not quantified in a health bar, nor does it stay low.  Instead, your health recharges when you are not taking damage, with damage represented by an increasingly red tinge to the edges of the screen.  This keeps the player from worrying too much about health and instead provides encouragement to use the character’s tremendous arsenal of weapons and skills to defeat your enemies.  This encouragement and opportunity for experimentation is what makes JC3 so replayable for me.  I’ve attached a video of someone playing around with the wingsuit mechanic in the game for demonstration.

Source: Replayable Mechanics in a World of Chaos