Game Journal: Dungeon Defenders pt. 2

Posted by & filed under Game Culture Class, Game Journal.

Further gameplay of Dungeon Defenders allowed me the chance to critically breakdown the game mechanics and Semiotics employed in game. The towers that the player builds cannot be moved after placement. On the overview map of the level, all the player’s towers are represented by symbolic look-alikes of the towers he has placed. The player can change to different characters during the build phase of each wave before the next wave of enemies come. This allows the player to place down all the different towers that each of the games characters can create. Going back to the overview map, tower signifiers can be seen by the player to re-affirm his strategy for tower placement. As I have said before, towers cannot be moved once created. The only way to “move” towers would be for the player to sell the wrongly placed tower and then re-summon it someplace else. Also, the overview map of the level keeps a constant update on where the player’s avatar is. The player’s avatar on the map is signified by a circle with a face-shot of the player’s character on it. Moreover, the positions of the Eternia crystals are shown on the map by a purple crystal icon so the player knows exactly where to put his towers to effectively protect the crystal(s). Further playing is needed to fully analyze this great game. Stay tuned!

1st Paper

Posted by & filed under Game Culture Class, Paper1.

Gone Home
How do various constraints create a successful immersive experience? Has humans, we have various natural limitations. With most video games, characters are given special powers or exceeding that human limitations, but in gone home, there is nothing special about the character. In the game you’re only able to act as a human does and interact with the environment as you would in real life. For example, simple things like wanting to know what’s in a drawer, you must open it. Even the first person view is a limiting factor, contrary to the third person view you’re not able to view your surroundings as easily. First person you have to point and look, third person you have none human viewpoints.
The constraints also creates agency, which is the duty or function of a person or thing that acts or has the power to act. Game agency refers the belief that you feel as if you have control and power over the game, in which your presence and decision making actually matters. Game agency is one of the most important component of a game because it impacts it in a way that directly affects the player, because it creates this sense of making meaningful decisions.
Agency is fundamental because without it, it leads the players to disassociation where they can’t really connect to the game, distractions that draws the player from the main part of the game, annoyance and frustration either because they don’t understand what’s going on or the lack of any feedback from the game when you make a decision. That said, good agency requires identifications with the avatar, meaning that you see through the eyes of the character, strong feedback, and a perception of real choices.
Connecting this back to Gone Home, these constraints creates an agency where it gives the player the belief of this game being realistic. You could open up virtually anything or pick up anything, and read plenty of notes. Usually games are bound to picking up object that pertains to the story and nothing more. They also allow you to pick up certain things outside the story, but only to give you a higher sense of interactivity. Gone home constraints are a bit different, allowing you to pick up mostly everything and moving everything. They wanted you to experience a level of interaction that surpasses all others.
Do all the affordances fit within the diegetic space? Given the definition for affordance, where it’s basically the possibility for action before it is actually carried out and diegesis simply indicates what the character perceives, such as the sound that the character in the game can hear, I don’t really believe that every affordance in the game fits into the diegetic space. There are some things that work, such as you turning on the T.V, the radio, listening to the intercom, turning on lights, reading letters, uncovering secret panels, finding keys, opening up things to find key codes to things, and etc. These are things that are common around our daily life and it comes natural to us when we want to pick up something to use or read. But I think that’s where it ends, because as the character reads the letter, she doesn’t really here the voice of her sister speaking. That’s when it goes into more of a non-diegetic space.
Do the affordances sometimes get in the way of telling the story? I believe that some of affordances did get in the way of telling the story because as I entered the home and played through it, I didn’t really like where you could pick up everything, because I got lost and would spend about 15 minutes looking through and reading every little thing that I could pick up, which just simply brought me out of the experience. I even started taking little notes, as if everything meant something for the sake of the bigger picture, especially the father’s weird obsession with JFK. I started to think that it was a ghost story simply because of Sam’s journal where she documented every weird thing that she saw, like hearing voices down the stairs and the insurance letter which stated that the house was over a 100 years old. I felt like the game became too cluttered with the freedom to pick up anything you want and the ability to go as many places as you wanted.
How does Gone Home use symbols and affordances to create an immersive narrative experience? I feel like the affordances in the game created a very immersive experience, because it simulates real life. If I were to walk in my home, I would react the same to objects as I did in the game. If I wanted to turn on the lights I could, if I wanted to turn on the radio I could, when I got curious about what’s in dresser doors or if I was looking for something, I opened stuff and went around searching the house looking for what I needed to further progress, just as if I was there in person trying to found out what happened around in the homes.
Other than that, I don’t have much to say on gone home rather than the given questions to guide me on the paper. I was pretty hard trying to write outside of what was asked because I didn’t have much to say about the game already, making this paper pretty difficult to write, so instead of picking one topic, I simply answered all questions that you listed to the best of my ability.

The Valve Cabal

Posted by & filed under Game Culture Class, Reading Response.

The “Cabal” is a design system set up by the game development company Valve. The Cabal was set up during the development of the game Half-Life to solve problems the design team was facing. The main problem was that after a year of hard work valve was left with a game that was unfun, didn’t flow together, and was for the most part unplayable.

Valve decided that instead of spending a few more months attempting to polish what they had into a releasable state, they would instead scrap the whole thing and start over. To guide the designers valve came up with three basic “Theories” they would follow. The first theory was a concept of experiential density, which came down to the basic idea that if the player wanted more action, they would only need to keep moving forward and more action would come seconds later.

The second theory was that the game world should respond to the actions the player makes, from shooting a gun, hitting a crate, or even entering a room. Without player acknowledgment the player won’t care about the game world they are in.

the third and final theory was that the player should never blame the game for their death or failure. The player should always be shown that there is danger, and that there is a way out of it. That way if they fail they will know it was their fault, they let the game down, and they will have to try harder.

With these design theories in place valve created the cabal, a group of 5-6 people who would brainstorm level design and creation. The cabal would spend 6 hours a day designing documentation for a particular part of the game. Once complete it would be sent to other members of the development team to make playable.

This system assures that the design is fun and interesting before time and resources are put into making it, at also assures consistency in design as the cabal will share members between each level and area.