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  • RedSwirl 10:52 pm on August 29, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , We Are The World   

    Okay, so being WAY late on the last squadcast:

    Despite you guys crapping on the worlds in Zelda, those are exactly the games I would point out if asked what my first encounter with a “real” game world was. Particularly Ocarina of Time. Looking back, part of the main thing that even sucked me into that game was how “alive” its presentation was. It was a lot of little things really, like how Link reacted to his world and how it reacted to him. At the very least you can’t deny all Nintendo put into crating the Clock town in Majora’s Mask.

    The best current example I can think of though is definitely the Yakuza games. Probably my favorite “urban environment” games. The vastness and openness of GTA is fun, but to me it’s the depth, detail, and character that makes a city immersive to me. The same goes for Rome in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. Every store and venue in Kamurocho is unique and has its own story (save a couple chain stores), but every blacksmith in Rome was pretty much the same. I really do wish someone would take the “Yakuza” approach to more cities around the world.

    The absolute smallest example I can think of for a game world that actually felt interesting to me was Silent Hill 4. You spend most of the game trapped in your apartment, but from it you get to look out at the rest of the complex and learn more and more about the cast of characters who inhabit it. I thought that was a very good (and probably cheap) method for storytelling.

    Lastly I’ll just plug in and say that as a Washington DC resident, I felt exactly what you guys mentioned in regards to Fallout 3. You guys would probably be surprised at how accurately the game translates DC. The metros for instance are pretty much dead-on. A lot of the towns in the game are real too (including the suburb where I live). People have looked up the locations of buildings on Google maps in order to complete quests in Fallout 3.

    Oh, and the Wiki game @bluesforbudhha played with L.A. Noire, I did that for Assassin’s Creed as well, especially in II. Most of the people you assassinate in the first game are real people who either died or disappeared in or around 1192. At least one was confirmed to have been killed by a hashashin.

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  • mjpilon 11:07 pm on June 6, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: We Are The World   

    @shingro Also your wall of text is brillant – very well done good sir!

     
  • feenwager 3:22 am on June 6, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: We Are The World   

    @shingro Dude. That wall of text is why we do the show. Well done. Tell your friends to come by and admire your work.

     
  • Shingro 3:13 am on June 6, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , , We Are The World   

    A WALL OF TEXT APPROACHES, COMMAND?!

    Okay this went to all sorts of different places, and it’s a pretty massive wall of text even for the Squad so I’ll put the most important part out there first that wasn’t discussed in the ‘cast

    Imagination is the key

    Imagination fills the blanks that aren’t addressed whether by lack of focus or lack of capability (graphical or otherwise) Imagination is how Jeff can know the smell of Zork. The game worlds that really speak to us is based on our imaginations fleshing out the world for us. This is the same reason you can read a book, then see the movie and be very very disappointed. “They don’t sound that way, the dinosaur isn’t that big. The Sphere looks totally different.” It’s been with us forever.

    Speaking of being with us forever, it’s the same place that nostalgia comes from, if a game world can hook you, your mind will fill in the blanks and create a much more complete experience then you objectively took part in. Games can do this better then other mediums because they have a better chance to engage you as an active participant rather then the passive participant of theater/books/movies.

    Zork is actually an interesting example of a lot of game world effects, If you remember the commands you can interact in the dark by memory. The concept of a world that doesn’t change that becomes progressively easier simply by the adaption of the human player is interesting. Roguelikes like ADOM also function this way. The player becomes more experienced, invested and involved in the world despite not having any continuous character. Like beige will remember the Star Control 2 map I think that no matter how old I get I’ll always remember where the first 1 up is in Mario 1-1, or where Baba Yaga’s hut is in Quest for Glory.

    The thing about the models of existing worlds is interesting, Rome which is certainly not real Rome speaks to someone because it’s compelling to them. LA Noir didn’t fire on all cylinders for @beige, but someone who say, worked as a beat cop in LA could easily find it more compelling then Rome, and the alternate might apply for an enthusiast for renaissance architecture. I’d argue that while any given game world might be more or less compelling (Persona 3 vs Doom) The world also becomes more or less compelling in relation to the player.

    Nintendo vs Sega, good worlds after all?

    That being said I’ll reverse that in a push back on Nintendo’s worlds rather then levels. Beige talked about how he’ll always remember where for example the Zot Fot Pik are in Star Control, but I’ll always remember a certain portion of the secret overworld entrances in Zelda 1. I won’t remember because the pixel art held any inherent power, but rather because when I realized every overworld square of that first game held a secret that I could discover I was powerfully engaged by what was there.

    Arguably Nintendo owes part of it’s major brands victory over their Genesis counterparts to its ability to create game worlds that stuck with a player over their competitors. Do you remember the angry sun from the desert level? Do you remember Giant’s World from Mario 3? How much of Super Mario World do you remember, and is it more or less then you remember of Green Zone from Sonic? I’d argue that Nintendo’s great victories have been coached in creating compelling worlds for interesting characters to exist in. Sometimes from imaginative design, Mario 2 through World comes to mind, and I don’t think Kid Icarus became a 20 year pining desire from Nintendo fans because it was the most technically polished game ever made. Brinstar, Hyrule, The Mushroom Kingdom all of these have powerful places in some people’s minds just as Zork has a powerful place in Jeff’s mind. Spyro certainly has its place in someone’s head despite whatever graphical fidelity it might lack. Don’t forget that to some people the duck in Adventure was legitimately scary. =P

    Hell, for as much as I feel it didn’t reach as many people as Mario’s world the Sonic series arguably did well enough to become a component of some people’s sexual identity, not that it’s an honor unique to Sonic, but it certainly speaks to the game world’s power to affect *someone* in *some* manner, so clearly most game worlds are relevant to some one, it depends on what you spent your childhood on I expect, that time where your imagination is much more likely to reach out and bring a framework to life.

    I hear you out there “Aha! Nintendo can mostly credit its superior character design more then its world design for that!” Well yes, I hear you. Still, the feel of the game world is powerfully influenced by its character. Imagine the world of Devil May Cry. Then mentally remove Dante, and replace him with a Space Marine. Even just thinking about it it’s shockingly different. Put Duke in the place of Bayonetta. Totally different games.

    WoW

    To Pete’s point on WoW I’d note that one of the most common comments I’ve heard on Cataclysm was the following “I was very surprised how much I was affected by seeing these places I’ve been in for so long, be changed.” It’s like going back to an old town you lived in and seeing “oh man, they put in a dairy queen?! There’s a roundabout here? It was just a 4 way stop before.” WoW has the benefit of an absolutely massive playerbase so the percentage of people who feel a deep affection for Azeroth are a large number of people. (Also, to Jeff’s point, I actually recall that when people complained that some of the flight paths were too winding increasing flight time, the developers said “We purposely designed the flight paths to show off interesting and impressive vistas, a straight path, would be too mechanical and rapidly get boring.”

    being attached is definitely the start and the end of the game world.

    Scarcity

    Star Control’s fuel increasing the interest in the world is not surprising, it gets you as a player invested in the world, “How far can I go?” the possibility of running out of fuel or starving or running out of time (Fallout 1) it makes you pay attention to the world in a deeper sense. There’re are places out there which are “unknowns” and if you want to get there you have to get invested in the world to achieve that. Once that happens, well… Food you worked for tastes better doesn’t it? The difficulty of the task magnifies the payoff emotionally, I’m sure Mark with his +1 Difficulty Game Habit is familiar with this.

    Morrowind and Oblivion

    Another interesting aspect, Morrowind, Oblivion and the like, their game worlds and side stuff are often more interesting then the main storyline. The Guilds and random discoveries and the like. Unfortunately this ultimately dead ends for most people and somewhat nullify its inclusion in the discussion, except, what about Daggerfall? A country of thousands of cities and towns all defined. I remember always traveling to certain capital cities after escaping the dungeon to buy certain magical items I could depend on being there.

    Lore

    One thought for the later bit of the podcast, Perhaps you don’t shore up the game with Bioware lore, but with Bioware events. I can guarantee you that there’s a fair amount of people who while they may only tangentially remember much of Final Fantasy 7, can tell you exactly about where Aeris was killed. Humans tend to assign feelings to places by way of events, this is seen from everything from ‘haunted’ houses or people’s reluctance to build on say, burial grounds, to national monuments and the like. I’m not sure how much this impacts, but I can certainly tell you that some games just “feel” a certain way, and I expect its because I was coming back after having certain experiences with that game. KOEI is my horse for that one, “Inidio: Way of the Ninja” particularly, though honorable mention goes to Gemfire and Ghengis Khan 2

    You can probably extend a game’s world by its lore, but ONLY if you can get your audience to care about your lore. Often this is most effectively done by contextual stuff, as when a majority of people sit down to play a game, they’re unlikely to smile if you hand them a book instead. (Though for the more avid readers, well hey! If it’s written well)Portal is a very good example of this, credit for pointing that out on the podcast

    Myst and persona

    Myst is very interesting in a Ren-Ai sort of way. There is almost no characterization for anyone ever. The game IS the world, and using and manipulating the world. I’d argue that Myst: The World is bigger and more characterized then any other part of the cast. Myst is also extremely successful because the story of the game is used primarily to shine a brighter light on the world. I’ve yet to meet the person who played Myst without trying to imagine “What happened here. what was this used for” when faced with the game’s environments.

    Persona 3 also changes by reason of events, the way the towns in Persona deteriorate and change causes more impact to the player since they’ve become invested into that little corner of very normal life. It does this far better then your traditional town backdrop might. You start to feel over time “This is the place I live” and once you’ve invested, to see it changing on you has a far stronger emotional impact.

    Shooters

    On the Halo element…. Well, Shooters tend to have “conceits” rather then stories, or worlds, though there are some very notable exceptions there is not a lot of incentive for them to create a stunningly realized world. It does bear mentioning though that the target audience for shooters does tend to be somewhat lower. Not to sterotype, but if someone has played mostly Madden and isn’t shall we say, a big reader. To these people Halo might be the most realized world/fiction they’ve ever seen.

    I haven’t played it, but I’d suspect that Amnisia owes a lot of its horror to the ambiance of the game and the long periods of silence. Without the silence, the fear and violence becomes the default tone of the game experience, and you’ve lost your impact.

    misc notes:

    Star control 2 is great for the same reason Star Trek is great, the species are basically characters, they bring life to the universe and you are always interested in what new weird experience is around the next corner… tune in next time!

    For the witcher, Geralts amnesia is a strong component that makes it easier for the player to adjust to an unfamiliar world while still keeping book personalities in the game. I wonder if Geralt has his amnesia in the books, and how long it lasted. With it already grandfathered into the games, it might be hard for them to let go such a convenient element.

    The Dead space gym was totally killable by 3 Ripper blades and no health lost if you were willing to do a bit of rubbernecking, give it a try next time you’re in the area =D

    The Witcher 2 kicks ass

    Oddly though, I poked in the game guide from GoG that you get with the game in reference to that amulet, it seems that it’s a sort of Magician’s Choice, if you tell him to go on into battle, he dies and you loot it from his body, if you convince him not to, they give you the amulet. Or at least… that’s how it’s supposed to work, honestly I’m not at all sure I still have it.

    I’m really… very sorry ¬_¬

     
  • RocGaude 6:56 pm on June 5, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: We Are The World   

    @bluesforbuddha I can totally get behind the “games are architecture” theory.

     
  • feenwager 2:22 am on June 5, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: We Are The World   

    Having only played Darwinia for about 5 minutes, I’ll leave it to the peanut gallery to decide. But my gut says, ‘why not?’.

    Yes, it was Grand Inquisitor. Thanks. That game was surprisingly good.

     
  • unmanneddrone 2:10 am on June 5, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , We Are The World   

    So, what about worlds like that within, say, Darwinia or FRACT – abstract interpretations and constructs…do they have the propensity to deliver the Yankee Stadium one-two?

    Oh, and was the Zork game you were referring to “Grand Inquisitor”, Feen?

    EDIT: Speaking of which, I think I mentioned this a while back, but please check out FRACT. In beta, free download for PC & Mac…amazing first-person adventure game. When you solve the first puzzle, give your jaw a parachute. It’ll be in freefall.

    http://fractgame.com/

     
  • feenwager 1:32 am on June 5, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: We Are The World   

    I still contend that a quality game world feels like a real place, no matter how fantastical the conceit. A series of levels, no matter how well made, never seems to have the same ‘oomph’.

     
  • unmanneddrone 1:28 am on June 5, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , We Are The World   

    @Shingro A WALL OF TEXT IS APPROACHING. Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

    I’d also like to know what kind of distinction is made between what we’d discern as a game world on a whole and individual levels. Can a single level be considered a world, and even if there isn’t a cohesion between levels, can this snapshot cumulation equate to a good game world?

    I refer to the maligned Lost Planet 2. Utterly amazing gameworld, with little in the way of a cohesive story or characterisation. Each chapter took place in very different locations and it was this disjointed and jarring sequence of new area introduction that painted a far better picture of EDN III than perhaps a cohesive plot progression could have.

     
  • feenwager 9:33 pm on June 4, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: We Are The World   

    @shingro I never have anything nice to say about Shenmue, so I try not to bring it up.

     
  • unmanneddrone 2:49 pm on June 4, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , , We Are The World   

    @beige UK2 for all our FS fun.

    Great show guys, too. I spent the afternoon scribbling and listening to the remainder of the Squadcast and tried to remember what games have provided me with terrific places to inhabit. A few things popped up:

    • Broken Sword 1 & 2 had terrific game worlds, as reigned-in as they are for interaction. I think it’s the art style coupled with the music. Everything was just so gorgeously grand, even with Smoking Mirror. Favourite sections within either would be Nico’s apartment (probably my first geek crush on a videogame character, ol’ Nico. I’m among friends, right? I can admit to that? No? *shame blush*), the Hotel Ubu, Loch Marne’s pub…and definitely the dark docks with the flatulent night watchman and his dog in Smoking Mirror. Intoxicating locales, masterfully painted.
    • STALKER for simply feeling unlike everything else. A detailed, depressing yet beguiling post-apocalyptic joy. The weather played a big part, as did the acoustics.
    • Snatcher is up there, I loved the Neo Kobe nightscape. Those gorgeous pixellated locations, and as much as there was little if no animation within the scenes themselves, the entire mood was set by these detailed and often dark areas.
    • X3: Terran Conflict…I guess because it’s so fresh for me at the moment, doing a rags-to-riches run, but as much as the X series fulfils my romantic notions of utterly computerised space – none of this manual control business – simply switching off autopilot to tail an Argon Mammoth superfreighter around, nabbbing the most picturesque screenshots, is a joy fuelled by the kind of space the X series exhibits. I’d agree with @angryjedi that the X universe feels somewhat impersonal, but it’s a bit of a Farcry 2 in that what you bring to the table in terms of drive and imagination can change the game somewhat. A game that allows you to build a narrative dynasty within its world is a winner in my book.
    • Funnily enough, Ridge Racer is my favourite gameworld in the racing genre. If you’ll permit me to smugly quote something I wrote a while ago, it sums up my unabashed love for RR, in this case, Ridge Racer 7:

    Here’s where I run the risk of developing a case of digital lockjaw for all the subsequent fellatio. In a nutshell, you will race through environments pure and clean; environments seemingly put together under the watchful gaze of a celestial utopian architect; environments so perfect they resemble those miniature models used in showrooms for high-class development projects. The effortless beauty of wind farms dotting the ranges reinforce the crisp, spotless resolve Ridge Racer wants you to envelop yourself in; you marvel at the intentionality of fireworks exploding in the night sky above the neon-lit city – but this is no trendy Fast and the Furious-neon. This is a perfect nightscape. There is no grit, no forced demeanour. The days are sun-soaked, with a perfect balance of colour and tone; the nights an exciting mesh of glowing brilliance. By day, you roar past picturesque lagoons being fed by rich, wide waterfalls and traverse lush mountain passes; by night, you see the ribbon-like trails of opponent taillights shift sideways as the pack drifts around magnificent, floodlit turns on majestic freeways.

    The economy of structural design is more about form and clarity of texture than polygon-count, evoking exactly what the game is channelling – that unabashed love for the rollercoaster-ride arcade experience. Big, beautiful, uncomplicated Japanese arcade direction. The important assets are there. High-definition airliners and sleek turbo-props line the tarmac on the airport track, one aircraft descending onto the runway with elephantine grace upon the second lap. A group of gargantuan radio-telescopes line a fresh, green plateau beside another course – not because they *had* to be there, but because they make perfect backdrop sense. Clean technical marvels to mirror a clean, technical Ridge Racer experience. It is just another reassurance of the cohesive drive for design, the striving for something so pure and unadulterated.

    If anything, Ridge Racer does not need the ‘real’ to be perfect, more to perfect the ‘real’ by inferring what ‘is’ and doing away with everything but the core essence. If that does not make a play for wankiest internet statement of the millennium, then direct me to my bester, for I obviously need to learn more.

    That’s my shortlist.

     
  • unmanneddrone 2:57 am on June 4, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , We Are The World   

    Wow…there’s some terrific and subjective positions staked during this first part of the new Squadcast! Looking forward to ruminating upon the conclusions and offering a few personal shekels.

     
  • Pete Davison 7:30 pm on June 3, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , , We Are The World   

    SquadCast 3.3 We Are The World Listen now… 

    SquadCast 3.3: We Are The World

    Listen now!

    Direct link

    The Squad talk about all the stuff that all the people you don’t notice in the credits work on: the world you’re running around in. What makes a good one? How is this unique to games? And what exactly is the plural of medium?

    Music in this episode:
    Good Ending – Planescape Torment
    Neutral Ending – Planescape Torment
    Bad Ending – Planescape Torment

    Subscribe via RSS
    Subscribe via iTunes

    Got any thoughts on game worlds? Post ’em here and tag ’em “We Are The World”.

    Enjoy the show! Extra-special thanks to Jeff for editing this one as I’ve been super-busy.

     
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