Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mission accomplished.

Well then. It is done (for the moment). Overall I thoroughly enjoyed having this blog as it has allowed me to express and communicate ideas and opinions about games design, as well as explore the field in various ways. Before reading the 16 additional blog entries required for part 2, I would like to direct the reader to a post made a few weeks earlier stating the information contained within:

Blog Post Criteria heads up

This post basically just explains the situation of the posting format I have chosen and invites the reader to take each post as one of many possible criteria variations.

The 16 posts making up part 2 range from the post "Decisions decisions" to the most recent "One Frag Left". Everything prior to this group was for the previous part.

I am considering keeping this blog alive and continuing to fill it with ideas and/or general opinions on games and the future of the franchise in the years to come. We shall see, however.

Below: BOOOM!!!

One Frag Left

Righto. Officially this is the last post required for this Journal before submission, so I decided to do something a bit different and simply mention some games that deserve being brought to attention. This post will therefore fall more into the industry examples/theory and own ideas section than group participation.

As anyone reading this blog could no doubt guess, I enjoy playing video games. There are games and even game genres that simply do not appeal to me, but for the most part I enjoy almost all types of games. I believe strongly in playing a game first before forming an opinion about it, therefore the variety of games that I at least endeavor to try is usually rather broad. As you can see from the contents of this blog, some games evidently stand out. WoW, Crysis, TA, TF2 and UT are all examples of games (and game types) that I play and enjoy playing. I try to be fair and judge these games with a critical eye, not only to avoid fanboism (previously mentioned) but simply to distinguish where these games could possibly have been better designed. As a potential future games programmer (AI, networking, engine etc..) understanding the intricacies of this is very important to me.

So if you can understand my awe when I came across the game Rez developed by SEGA entertainment, you could probably assume that it is something pretty awesome. Well it is. Rez, originally developed for the Dreamcast in 2001, is a very abstract, music themed third person shooter where the player's character undertakes some form of 'adventure' within a computer mainframe. The general idea is to shoot incoming objects, which in turn generates the music track you are listening to and enhances the players abilities. What is interesting about this process is the fact your character undergoes evolution, in a wire-frame world very much evolutionarily themed. Taking into consideration the theme of the game, the blend of evolution and technology is both unique and aesthetically pleasing.

Below: Rez - A true work of gaming art

Another slightly similar game worth mentioning was an old PSX game called Omega Boost (Polyphony Digital, 1999). This game was, simply put, fun. You controlled some big high-powered, intergalactic traversing robot that had enough firepower to run the next world war, and probably the one after. You basically flew around and blew the living crap out of everything. The death of this living crap was pulled off in such a way that you could do it for hours without ever getting sick of it. It was an abstract game in a meaningless world where nothing mattered unless it was within your field of view. A modern arcade shooter, it is one of very few games that I actually believe grasps the concept of mindless fun and doesn't drown it out with unnecessary information, narrative or complexity.

Below: Omega Boost - Do a Barrel roll (in style)!

Both Rez and Omega Boost have distinct similarities which I think are important for game designers to at least acknowledge. Both are extremely easy to play and abstract enough so that they remain entertaining in a somewhat alien sort of way. They do not really require any form of major concentration to perform well in, nor do they expect it from the user when the levels get harder. They are just simply engaging, immersion in probably its most raw form.

And then there was Homeworld (Sierra, 1999). I cannot believe I have not once mentioned that game or its sequel in this blog. Homeworld and Homeworld 2 have probably been two of the most influential games for me as a growing adult. As a space strategy game, it had an excellent story, beautiful theme and style, as well as the introduction of movement on all 3 axis, a feat only pulled off by few strategy games. Not only was this original, but for me it opened a completely new level of strategic game play. If I could describe the game in one word, it would be 'Epic'. I shall let the game speak for itself.

Below: Homeworld 2 - The space enthusiasts dream game

What does this do for me? Despite immense puzzlement in how one would actually code some of these games (especially Rez), the idea of abstraction, immersion and fun combined in a game is very interesting. Recently, the only game I can think of that combines these elements is Audiosurf, which has become insanely popular since it became a Steam client game. I am seriously considering designing some kind of game (or at least the basic engine of one), for the Major project coming up next semester. The freedom that is available when making a game such as this is something that may aid our team, considering the tools that we may have available.

Only time will tell...

All you man (are belong to us)

Manuals. This week's lecture about game manual's and documentation has quite some relevance to a piece of assessment due for this unit, the game manual for Crusaders. Although the lecture was more of a pictorial demonstration, it was clear that the variances and effectiveness of various manual designs can help or hinder the success of how easily a game can be played. To further illustrate this point of view, I will explore 3 game manuals that I currently have access to from 3 very different games. All three are equally effective in their design regarding the type of game they are related to.

Below: World of Soul Reaversis

World of Warcraft, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and Crysis are all games that I own and played at some point in the past. Soul Reaver, undoubtedly the oldest (being a PSX game) has a very methodical layout of the content, relating very closely to game elements that would be uncovered during the course of the game. Controlling the main character moves logically towards enemies encountered and special abilities, with a brief history and rundown of the world and associated vampire clans. It lists relevant information earlier on in the manual with other less important data closer to the end. While the design is simple, it is an easy to follow and understand article that only gives out details when you require them.

World of Warcraft's manual is also very similar to Soul Reaver's, the main difference being the fact that is about 5x more comprehensive. This monolithic game manual includes in depth break downs of class roles and abilities as well as the narrative and lore behind the game environment. It could surely pass for bedtime reading for someone without anything else better to read. Blizzard leave no expense when they attempt to deliver as much information to the player as possible, which while convenient, may be daunting or confusing for someone looking for a simpler answer. However, the scale and complexity of a game like WoW really does require a large enough manual which in all honesty, only brushes the surface of the game.

Crysis on the other hand is a bit different from both of these games. It is very straight forward and direct, clear instructions with a very linear design (both navigationally and visually). "This is a gun", "shoot it by doing this" and "follow triangle on map" are derived objectives you will naturally get from skimming this type of manual design, which probably appeals to the slightly impatient nature of FPS gamers. Crysis is an action game, and reading is for wussies!

Below: If only you could combine the three...

Anyway, what does this mean for our manual? From what our group has discussed, our manual will probably follow a style very similar to all three of the ones mentioned. It will follow a chronological explanation of game play mechanics and the possible situations players will encounter, listed in the order most likely of occurrence. It will have the narrative and historical aspects of the game possibly listed later in the document, with the earlier information more related to the actual game play itself. These former sections will be very succinct and to the point, delivering information in an easy to comprehend and minimalistic, need-to-know manner. The style will quite possibly be in the form of some olde-English design, reminiscent of the era where the actual Crusades were taking place. This was also my intention for the use of the figurehead (i.e. a Crusader), however it wasn't a well received item by the rest of the group for some reason. Maybe we should change the name of the game.... :S.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's just a flesh wound...

Yes, more play testing has, over the last week and a half, been performed on our game Crusaders. I'll keep this relatively short and simply discuss and reflect on my participation in this recent group work, as well as the new ideas and rules we have implemented.

First of all, we have a new board design consisting of hexagons placed concentrically around the central hexagon. Although we tried prototyping it before, this version is more accurate and probably the design we will use for the final version. It differs from the circular board as it has 6 nodes on the highest tier, 12 in the middle and 18 on the lowest, most outer tier. We originally thought this design would be a little confusing and tedious for new players to traverse, however because of the way the hexagons connect, it gives a much clearer idea as to the spaces available to you when you are moving up a tier. The extra space also gives room for up to 6 players to play the game. We have not tested the game with 6, therefore this may remain simply as speculation and not a feasible game play possibility.

Below: The ants go marching one by one hurrah, hurrah.....

We have also included a new 'alliance based moved to the game. Both Jeremy and I felt the need to strengthen the allegiance potentials of the game by including a move where to allied armies could move as once, but could only move on a 1/2 dice roll and one of the players would skip a turn. This implemented feature has turned out to be a pleasant success, often turning the tide of the race/battle quite severely. It is an excellent risk vs reward strategy that requires a bit of tactical play as well.

Below: Do it, and let the English see you do it.

Also, just today, we have been messing around with the idea of one use 'powerups' that players can use at any time during the course of play (applicable to them). This idea borrows from the FPS origins we are basing our game from, where items such as Jump Boots and Quad-damage amplifiers existed for resourceful players. Double move and double dice roll abilities were found to an interesting catchup options for trailing players, Mel even managed to beat a node reinforced by all 3 of my armies with only one of his. An 'immunity' option is also being tossed around, which I considered to be game breaking especially from a catchup, last ditch attempt attack on a leading player. We shall see.

Overall I am happy with the success our group is making and can be pleased with my and my team mates involvement in the group. We all have a very good idea of how the game works and the various strategies you can employ to be successful. This is mainly due to all of our concentrated involvement in its production. Very shortly we will be discussing and implementing the games material construction, something that should be quite interesting.

Also, check out the possible figure head for Crusaders...


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Crit Rocket!

While play testing any form of interactive product is an essential design methodology procedure, perhaps the most important factor to understand when designing a game is that people new to it are not going to have any idea how to play it. The designers and programmers of the game will always have a far greater understanding of not only how the game works, but also any rules, tactics and/or exploits that can be achieved within the game environment. Usually. I say usually as though something like bunny-hoping in many Quake engine games (eg. Quake 3) are originally considered physics exploits, they can later be considered to be an actual gameplay 'feature'. Such is not the case for Quake engine's cousin Half-life (heavily modified Quake 2 engine) where bunny hoping was considered as game breaking and later patched to be removed.

Below: Quake 3 Bunny hopping - Fly me to the moon...

Jumping rabbits aside, the need for developers to receive feedback during all stages of production is something that should be seriously considered, especially considering the eventual success factor of the product. A good example of this taking place can be seen in the currently in production expansion for Blizzard's game World of Warcraft. Wrath of the Lich King, scheduled for release sometime at the end of this year, is currently undergoing an Alpha stage testing phase, available only to families and friends of Blizzard. A very secretive process, the game which is only partially completed is already undergoing tests concerning zone/level/quest progression and general aesthetic design and feel.

Below: WotLK Alpha - Nerf inbound!

Much like The Burning Crusade before it, it will eventually go into a Beta testing phase for several weeks prior to release when the content is deemed playable enough by mass audiences. The feedback they get from this stage of testing will determine the class balance and group mechanics (dungeons, raiding) which makes the game so popular today. The reason why Blizzard can so successfully and comprehensively perform these testing phases is partly because of the medium they have chosen and the platform with which they can update it: the PC and mass internet access. Feedback is prompt, if not live, with player testers able to communicate directly with developers while the content is being explored. It is a powerful development ability, especially concerning the varied demographics and interests associated with the game.

However, not all companies have such great success or resources for play testing. Auran's Fury was considered to be a flop primarily because of the limited play testing that the game received. Although the game did go through several open Beta phases, the game really only interested and addressed a niche community of avid MMO PvP fanatics. While the idea may have been brilliant and may have been enjoyable for the people who tested it, to the masses the game had a flavor that was not entirely appreciated. Another similar PvP MMO example Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR), also coming up, was not so recently returned to an Alpha stage of production (having gone through an open Beta testing phase). Opinion as to why this happened was rumored to stem from both the undesirable results that Fury brought as well as gameplay results when contrasted to its primary competition (i.e. WoW).

Below: WAR- Apparently coming...

Anyway, getting away from MMOs and computer games altogether, play testing in our game is definetly something we as a group have considered. We are completely aware that our involvement in the development of the game has severely enhanced our concept and understandings of it, which may not be comprehensible to other people. Inviting several uni friends to come and playtest the game has been raised, and may go ahead this week if time is not an issue. If the game is not easy to understand, it may be necessary to both simplify the gameplay and/or interface slightly to avoid confusion and misinterpretations. This sort of minimalistic reconfiguration may lead into such areas as the discernible rule set and game manual, however this is a topic best left to discussion after next week's lecture.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Where's the 'any' key?"

"Be not deceived with the first appearance of things, for show is not substance" - English Proverb

Yeah that. There is perhaps nothing more irritating in a game than bad interface design. Seriously. If there is one thing that has driven me off more games than I can count, it would have to cluttered, insensible and the outright confusing design of game interfaces and menus, something which should ideally be a walk in the park.

In this week's lecture we were given a brief run through as to what effective interface design means. Using both Nielsen's but primarily Norman's model of usability principles, user interface design was explained in simple generic terms where similarities were evident. Having gathered what was described in the lecture, I shall attempt to apply this knowledge and break down a user interface that has been bugging me (and many others) as of late.

Now, I am a big fan of Unreal Tournament, so it is important that the reader understand how much it pains me to have to draw criticism to its latest installment UT3. As much as I am a fan of the game, I will not attempt to shroud or even ignore some of the bad design decisions that this game suffers from. I attempt to avoid 'fanboism' as much as possible and this post should be evidence of such an action.

Below: UT3 - Menu

My most major concern with the design of UT3 is unfortunately the user interface. This interface is, as you can see, rather aesthetically pleasing. Its animated menus and general theme are both excellent. To be quite honest with you, I have absolutely no problem with the look of the menu interface at all. But that's the thing, its all looks. As a student of IT and programmer of very dodgy programs, I do not fall head over heels for how something looks, but rather how something functions. The problem with the UT3 menu is that it falls short in this area, especially considering the platform it is on.

The current UT3 menu design works quite functionally ... on consoles. It is in fact the same menu used in the console versions of the game, but it is not a port of the game. It was made concurrently alongside the XBoX 360 version of the game which the menu works perfectly for. However, for some reason Epic Games decided this menu would work well enough for the PC version, which is where they made their mistake. On PC, this menu suffers from terrible navigation and information errors, often taking up to 3 to 4 page transitions to get to a specific setting which simply has the option to be enabled or disabled. The nature of the PC gamer, which I must say I am primarily, is that the speed and accuracy of using a mouse and keyboard is something we take for granted. The menu is too large, too basic and does not make use of enough eye space that PC users generally have more of (i.e. closer to the screen). The need for panning options over multiple screens for the console version is unnecessary for the PC version. When you take into consideration that the PC version is in fact more customisable than the console, the plethora of additional options necessitates the need for a better streamlined and comprehensive menu design. Currently the navigation in the implemented menu design is too arduous for the average PC user, considering the tools and options available to them.

Further proof of community disapproval:
Beyond Unreal Forum Post
Beyond Unreal Poll

It also take a bloody long time to load. Since when did menus need a loading time?

Below: UT99 - Menu

Epic Games did not always have this problem however. As you can see in the original UT99 menu design, they had an excellent Uwindows theme going on which was basically perfect in every way imaginable. Everything, from video options to setting up matches was less than 2 clicks away and all available to the user at any time. The ability to do both at once was also possible, something which was continuously helpful when you were indecisive about preferences. Epic have even admitted that designing UT3 for both PC and console at the same time did hamper the individuality that the game should have on each platform, even though it was an excellent business decision.

Another quick example I can also bring up is the ingame user interface in WoW. Not discussing damage/threat meters, item or location mods, the user interface in this game is considered by many to be lacklustre and even a bit excessively cluttered. I am constantly ridiculed for using this default interface, but there are many people like myself who still use it. The reason? It works. It is functional, and even though it may look unimpressive it does the job. It is because of this reason, the simple fact that it is functional, that I have no quarrels with it. Aesthetics are not my primary concern.

Below: WoW - Default UI

How does this affect my ideas? From a scenario such as this I can reinforce something that I have always believed in. No matter how good something may look, if it doesn't function well or ingeniously it is not worth much in the long run. Although the interface design for our game Crusaders does not need to be aesthetically or even visually pleasing, it needs to be basic but comprehensive enough for the user to understand. Interface such as the Google franchise of media (search engine, chat, email etc.) is a classic example of what we should be striving for. This sort of interface design is something we shall be undertaking in the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

In a place called Ter, Resting.

Interesting. This shall be one of the posts discussed in the one before this, discussing my participation in group work, this time related to the testing of our game 'Crusaders'.

It works! It really, really works. All of our long discussions, theory crafting and debating have finally paid off as we collectively as a full group (Mel, Jeremy and I) played our game using actual dice and counters (purchased by Mel) to represent the forces. Although our first few tests were done using only 6 sided dice, when we finally brought the 20 sided dice into the equation, the results were marvelous. Although we are only using basic materials (2 dimensional notepad board, stapled paper as resources etc.), the insight and success the prototype testing gave us was quite good.

Below: Circular board and 6 sided dice prototyping

Although I shall try and avoid mentioning information discussed in both my peer's blogs, some points we uncovered should be discussed regardless. What we noticed with the introduction of the 20 sided dies was that the chances of beating a larger force or alliance were drastically increased. The chances of winning when two 20 sided dies were competing against only a single was slightly lower than when two six sided dies fought against only one. This is excellent proof of our theory as it encourages players to perform offensive rather than defensive maneuvers and tactics, something we originally thought would be problematic.

Something of concern however is the strength and relationship of alliances. The alliances themselves are loose by default as they should really only be established via communication between players, not forced or even suggested by any formal game rules. However, the ability to work together is slightly hampered. The suggestion of a unified move where two players could sacrifice their individual turns and roll 'together' was brought up and is still in debate. It would not go without consequences however, maybe only allowing 1/2 the dice roll number and giving the target player/s two dice rolls in succession afterwards (whether they win or lose). It adds a strategic and coordinated element on positioning into play as well as the risk of losing and giving your opponent a greater lead.

We also tried a hexagonal shaped board which was also quite successful. Originally the circular shaped board presented troubles with inequalities with resource distribution per tier, however the hexagonal shaped seems to overcome this problem to an extent (ie. fewer nodes at higher tiers, more at lower). One slight problem with the hexagonal board is that games could potentially become longer as well as confusing for multiple (6?) players. The board design is something that will be put under review for the moment, though the affects it has on the game is really only minimal.

Below: Hexagonal board and 20 sided dice

The ability to change an alliance during a counter-attack (ie. a defender who attacks an army gets attacked by an ally in the same region) was also brought up and thought to greatly enhance the possibilities of betrayal in our game, something we are striving to represent.

To reflect on my participation during this phase of testing, I would have to say I played my part at an equal beneficially competitive level. The three of us all managed to win the game at some point, all devising various strategies to uncover exploits and/or broken game mechanics. While Mel undertook an interesting ramp disabling tactic that skewed the 'time' game in his favour, I personally took a very defensive, turtle like approach, moving my forces as close together as possible and creating ramps in fast succession. Both were proven to have strengths and weaknesses, the roll of the dice being the number one deciding factor. I raised some interesting points (such as the betrayal aspect) and we discussed some ideas as a group that we think would help the game 'flow' better. Overall though, the testing was successful and the game had proven to be fun to play, something we were all worried about early on.

Blog post criteria heads up

Okidoke. Recently some criteria regarding the format of these blog posts has been released, explaining slightly more specifically what each should be about (3 different categories). Although my posts have been conforming to the latter two criteria, I do not really have too much demonstration for the first type, that being 'reflection on participation' in group work. Therefore, some of posts in the future will take on a slightly different format in order to fill this criteria.

Because I have been staying up to date with these every week, I have already completed 10 of the required 16 posts for section two. Instead of wasting time overhauling previous posts to better conform to one of the 2 specific latter criterias (ie. outlining and evaluating own ideas, identifying and evaluating theory) I shall simply say that there should be enough information in each of these previous posts to conform to one of the two, if not both. The format of each generally follows some type of discussion, whether fact or opinionated, about the theory and effects of commercial games. The posts generally end with a quick run down of my own ideas regarding the subject, as well as how they could be used in our game Crusaders. Hopefully this can be clearly seen in each post.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The truth that sticks

Another topic briefly discussed in the lecture that I found interesting was the concept of betrayal. Have you ever been betrayed in a game? I can honestly say that I find it difficult to come up with many examples where I have. Obviously there are times when another player could have clearly assisted you in something but didn't, but thats more a 'Good Samaritan' sort of situation.

Obviously there are plot twists and character changes in games (such as team balancing) where characters who are previously friends either become enemies (via narrative) or are pitted against you (forced via server settings). While this may be betrayal in a singleplayer mode or campaign involving NPCs, in multiplayer games it is not the same as given a choice, a player may actually choose not to. In multiplayer games, betrayal is not really something that is chosen, more a consequence of various conditions (for example, taking the lead in a racing game).

Probably the only instance of betrayal I have ever encountered in a multiplayer game was during a LAN in which we played Red Alert 2. Although you could form alliances at the start of the match, they could be broken later on during the game. It wasn't a big issue though, as changing of alliances usually required both parties to come to an agreement and that would not usually occur until both had substantial armies and defensive capabilities.

So will there be betrayal in our game? Most definetly. In a sense, our game is very much based around the idea of betrayal, what with the alliances and allegiance swapping involved. While most players will generally not team with the leader in becoming the King of the Hill in our game Crusaders, the breaking of trusts and alliances during the course of the game, even the course of an imminent battle, is quite possible. To describe a simple scenario, if a player arrives in an area occupied by two allied players and chooses to not engage, then the other 2 opponents can choose to attack. While attacking however, one of allied players could choose to sit out, or even support the invader, thus instantly severing the alliance and betraying their friendship.

On that note, I would like to leave the concept of betrayal with a short machinima video I created last Saturday afternoon, showing how betrayal can possibly be portrayed in game. It involves entities from WoW, compiled using a combination of a model viewer program, Fraps and Adobe Premiere Pro. Basically a blood elf rogue gets attacked by an undead warlock, something that is not actually possible in game as they are both part of the same faction.

Below: Nuked Elf - Green Fire

"Your mother!"

In this week's lecture we learnt about the intricacies of multiplayer gaming and the often unusual interactions that take place between human allies and opponents. Amongst the various activities, some mentioned at some point already in this blog, there were two interactions that stood out for me from the 'Actors + Counteractors' list. These were the actions of taunting/luring and forcing a player to do something detrimental or forbidden (seduction). While these two may have common links, they are something that really only applies to action between human beings, even in a virtual world.

Taunting, luring and/or falling for one's bluff is an interesting game mechanic that cannot really be applied to the methodical precision that an artificially intelligent opponent would possess. Part of taunting or luring is having your enemy know their mistake when it's too late to react or stop. Taunting can happen in many games, from my experience, alot of the time in multiplayer FPS games to enrage or frustrate your opponent (all in fair sport though). The psychological effects of taunting can be seen to be beneficial, if not to simply increase the fun factor of playing.

Below: TF2 - Pyro taunts

Luring on the other hand is a little more complicated. To lure implies that you have some sort of negative affect attached to a desired position or entity in a game. This could be vital strategic ground in an RTS such as Starcraft or Dawn of War, or simply a necessary corner to traverse in TF2 in which an engineer has parked a lvl 3 sentry. Luring sometimes may even involve taunting, irritating an opponent with small arms fire, provoking their interest in your demise and disregarding any potential threats. It is often considered that the Zerg race in Starcraft and the Necrons in Dawn of War are the epitomy of Lure and Ambush game play styles.

Below: Starcraft 2 - Zerg Assault in progress

Bluffing is again different. Without talking about card games and other such game types where honesty is involved, the mechanic of bluffing in many video games is particularly rare. I don't just mean running around a corner, only to jump out again in their faces, as such an action can be seen as beneficial maneouvre. Where actual bluffing is concerned, you are opening yourself up to potential threat or harm by performing it. Something like staying stealthed or shadowmelded around a BG flag in WoW, or feigning a fear/drain/heal are typical examples of bluffs that open you to harm if you don't manage them correctly (or indeed if they don't fall for them).

Forcing detrimental, negative or even forbidden play is also a different ball game. In football, if your defense or pressure is good enough, you could force the enemy team into making the mistake of performing long or risky passes in order to get around you. This sort of gameplay element can be translated into many games, such as applying pressure in WoW's Arena (forcing cooldowns) or simply bugging a resource collector in an RTS like Red Alert. Such tactics may force an opponent into a more defensive state, pulling back and restricting offensive forces and abilities and opening up weakness for you to exploit.

Most of these actions are performed unconciously by the player/s of many games.

So what does this mean for games design and our game? While our game does not directly have many avenues for taunting or luring, bluffing and forcing are possibilities when you consider the style of play involved. Disabling a ramp only to basically make it again in your next turn could force a friend or foe to do undesirable moves that could work in your favour. Pretending to aprroach and engage an enemy force could create tension as a player summons strength to the area, and relief or frustration when you simply move past him or her unconcerned.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Well, I don't really have much more to say about emotions in gaming, but criteria requires I create 2 blog posts a week about lecture material, which was rather short the week before. So for this post, and keeping the 'emotional' aspect of games in check, I have decided to talk about a scene in a game I have recently played that is both disturbing and even frightening from an realistic standpoint.

I wasn't that moved by the game, to be quite honest. The game, Call of Duty 4, while being a decent singleplayer shooter, was much of the same old thing in terms of solo play and AI assitance. There were some very tense scenes, particularly when you are caught under heavy fire or sneaking past an armed patrol in full camouflage that were very engaging, as well as some graphic depictions of executions and mass burials around certain parts of the world. It is by no means a bad game, it is in fact an excellent military shooter, both technologically accurate and believable, however at the end of the day its just not my cup of tea.

With the review out of the way, I would like to point out a section of the game that I found rather shocking, especially from a games design perspective. I am not going to care to much about giving the details and story away as I need to justify my position. In the mission "Shock and Awe" you become part of a massive assault into enemy territory to silence the terrorist mastermind and his supporting forces. You are not directly involved in the main objective of the mission, but rather a support force clearing the ground of anti-aircraft and rescuing random soldiers/pilots in distress. During the mission, constant radio messages of a radioactive device being present in the city are heard, arousing suspicion and the possibility of something going horribly wrong.

Below: CoD4 - Obviously someone was trying to rocket jump

Without beating around the bush, you as a player, well.... die. In a nuclear blast (well the outer rims of one). Your helicopter crashes, blacking out, only to awake later to the scene of a nuclear holocaust (radiation, debris) which has you crawling on the ground in a futile attempt to save yourself. The scene is very well done, but it was simply something I had never experienced before. Although you are not very attached to the character 'Jackson' that you play, the fact that you died, and it was an intentional game design decision, is very unique.

You also play an SAS member, so the game doesn't end there if that's what you were thinking.

Anyways, from a games design perspective this opens many new doors. Death in a game can be something designed intentionally without the player's intervention, making narrative exploration more interesting. The death of a character could allow you to play other characters in the same situation, or even the opposing faction. It doesn't need to tie loose ends, as you as a player didn't do anything wrong. You just died, and it's part of the game. You don't respawn, nor do you have another attempt. It happens, and life (of the game) will go on.