Monday, February 19, 2007

A brutal post, reflections on God of war

I plan to use this place to also talk about my personal game playing experiences for future reference and reflection, so I shall start with my latest conquest, God of War. I have just finished the game last night, and I would have to say that its and excellent example of the modern action adventure game of the current generation, if extremely graphic and explicit. The videos that you can unlock by finishing the game offer even more insight into the design of the game, and as a researcher I found these to be very interesting. The designers looked to refine the elements of action adventure and distill them until the player experience was exactly what they expected you to leave with. This can even be seen in the way the game handles failure. some parts of the game can be inordinately difficult at first, but a small change in strategy will then game the game freely much more forgiving. Sometimes this strategy change is not apparent and the game will ask you if you want to continue the game on easy. While This only occurred to me when I was attempting some of the platforming puzzles, in which a difficultly change would not be helpful, its prompt would actually feel like a personal challenge to try again.

I write this second paragraph a week after writing the first, and I have to say that I wish games with a more appealing (meaning in this case , to a larger audience than 18 to 30 year old males)
aesthetic can achieve the refinement of their game play model as god of war does. I have recently finished reading a article at the escapist, which talked about the experience playing Super Columbine RPG. I have to say that I felt something similar while playing God of war, That I wished I could lead Kratos to a path that can ease his troubled memories. Thus, It seems to build a game one needs to balance yin and yang in a sense. A game needs to be fun, yet frustrating, and challenge the player to be introspective on their choices, yet not be judgmental of choices. This subtle art is the key to designing better games and acknowledging what is art and what is crap out there in this medium.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Game Modding and Education

While their is much to be said about the use of game directly for educational purposes, such as playing a historical simulation to teach about history or a combat simulation that prepares a soldier for combat, two weeks ago we focused on looking at the literature regarding the use of game modding and construction in education. Kafai work is extensive in this area, and It is the area in which I have been most interested in since my first year as a graduate student, do to my involvement in a Game modding course. I have been using these tools to teach for a number of years now and I wanted to informally discuss these tools.

The first element that I personally found important for the students was the base structure and syntax of the environment. Environments that were capable of proof reading, and explaining compiler errors in a format that is understandable without a computer science degree. This is one of the reasons I enjoy using Warcraft III for my classes. The script editor describes each on of its functions in a sentence format, indicating undefined or incompatible values with red text. Also the student understand that blue text means this is a value that is cable of changing. Unfortunately, A better way needs to be designed to find the appropriate function for a specified task.

A library of content is of extreme importance when using a tool, as ones artistic resources effect the complete aesthetic of ones game. I greatly enjoyed the use of RPG maker XP for this point. The tool a great library of art and music to create the game, even if it was somewhat limited to a fantasy setting, there was enough variation in the art to do a variety of stories under the genre of fantasy. But this also suffers from a similar downside as Warcraft III's functions, as a large set of resources makes it hard to locate one resource. This is made worse by the fact that many of the resources have no indication of their content in their title, thus requiring the user to spend the time to familiarize themselves.

A element that has been incorporated recently into Half-life 2 SDK could help with both of these issues. Within the Half-life 2 SDK's Hammer editor, one needs to be able to select textures for map design. An innovated search tool allows the user to quickly access all textures with a matching keyword. Recently, this tool has been augmented to work with the tools 3d model reasources as well. While I do not see this getting implemented very soon into all environments for educational or hobby use, I belive is an important consideration for the previous reasons.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Catan, A Learning Experiance

For my first post I’m going to discuss the game session held in class in which we played the board game "Settlers of Catan". While not a video game (or at lease not yet, I know in a few weeks Xbox Live will get its version) the game is a terrific example of a large number of abstract systems that players must master in order to succeed. What I find most interesting about the game is that while on the surface the game appears to be very complex, Even those who were unfamiliar with it quickly picked up on the strategy elements after a few turns. I would compare this to chess, which to me has a simpler set of rules, but can take a lifetime to play like a grand master. I would have thought that Catan would be the harder game to masters, yet in all our groups those who have not played the game before proved to be competent in their abilities.

The process in which the new players to the game learned was also interesting. Mostly the new players would mimic the choices the more experience players made, but then about halfway into the game realized that in order to win they would have to adjust their playing style with one that fix their location and access to resources. Luck also played a key element into the learning curve as I, a more experience player, was not able to execute on my strategy since I was without resources. This allowed the other players in the game to realize the importance of resources and build closer to the locations that kept producing resources.

The trade and barter system of the game also provides an avenue for the new players to learn alternative strategies as players would indicate why a trade would be to both players favor. Unfortunately, do to our games particular layout, we have a number of players monopolizing specific resources while all in need of one specific resource, bricks. The game quickly became centered on this resource.

After the game I think it would be interesting to contrast this experience with playing a game of "Diplomacy". Diplomacy is a similar in a player tries to control dominancy over a geographic area and that each player needs the help of the others to be victorious, but the game is much more conflict oriented as opposed to the city building approach that Catan presents. The other major difference in the game is that there is no luck component in Diplomacy, The only way to gain ground is with overpowering numbers or particularly advance maneuvering.

Friday, February 9, 2007


Hello Internet,
This will be my second attempt at a online space to collect my thoughts on video games and gaming culture as it relates to goal of getting a Ph.D. As my previous attempts have become a bit personal, I will try to keep this blog focus only on Games and research possibilities related to them.

That being said, Welcome to the Blog! The first few posts will pertain to the class I am currently taking which focuses on games for education. I plan to continue using this space after this course is over however.

So, read on for the rants of a gamer, learning to fit into the academic world.