Thursday, May 29, 2008

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...

No comments: