Huge metalic contraptions, controlled with levers and buttons while roaring like a wild beast.
Robots (Mechas) are often portraid like animals in games, having them use an animal-like movement pattern and sometimes even sounding like them.
Why is that? Does people like it? Does it have any effect?
I like it. A lot of people don't.
I can only guess, but I think it's because we can instantly relate to what we know about the specific specie, race or whatever reference we have. It's all about our cognitive models. To having us use our own resources of knowledge, instead of having to input them into us.
Ie. when seeing a cat-like machine instantly makes me assume it's an agile piece of machinery. Perhaps even mischievous.
A somewhat recent example from AAA-games are Metal Gear Solid 4 and its different bosses. The Metal Gear Ray for example, launches in front of you, stretching its head (cockpit) towards the sky and lets out a tremendous roar, resembling Godzilla.
Now, in reality, there probably wouldn't be much point in doing so; but while in the Metal Gear world, within the magic circle it said:
- I'm a monstrous foe! Fear me, as I am a primal carnivore!
And that's intimidating! We know to run from dangerous looking things that growls at us. What's more scary? A quiet robot that doesn't move at all, or a fierce sounding robot with a daunting "idle" movement?
I think it's a great developer technique to have the player use his own instincts and base of references. The more iconic; the better.
Of course, sometimes concept artists just think it looks cool and that's why it's in the game...
It's been done. I've seen it a million times already.
I'm not talking about any specific theme for the setting in video games, but I'd say, most of them.
I'm looking forward to Starcraft 2, but admit it, Space Marines; you've seen them before...
Space Marines, World War II and High Fantasy, even though they amongst many other themes adapt very well for games, they're boring!
I realise what I believe are the two biggest reason for the somewhat limited selection of themes in video games:
- It's a tried concept. It's been done. It's been done with great success! If it aint broke, why fix it? And because of that; it sells! It's what it all comes down to, really.
- It's recognizable. Since you'll want as many people as possible to play your games, it's not just about attracting as many as you can, it's just as much about not scaring them away. Let's say you'd love a game based on New Zealand geografy, I doubt the consumers gained in that decision would weigh more than the consumers lost. Everybody knows Fantasy, Space Marines, World Wars and the world we live in today.
One thing I really like about the indie-scene, is that they often explore new themes. It can be anything from something we've seen with a twist, to something totally psychadelic. They're not necessarly all good but that's not the point.
So, my point with all this is that there should be more games about ninjas!
A friend of mine just sent me a link and a message via IM.
seriöst, att en bild kan få en så intresserad av ett spel
(URL from 19/4/09)
The message translates to: "Seriously, to think that a picture can get you so interested in a game"
And y'Know, he's got a very valid point. The pic is from a game called Borderlands. I personally hadn't heard about the game before at all, but at the instant I looked at the picture, I was hooked!
All of a sudden, from that single screenshot I'm very interested to say the least and I intend to catch up on the facts. Learn from this!
Apparently it's a game by Gearbox Software that just now changed to cel-shading rendering instead of "ordinary" graphics. As of now, that's all I know.
It's one of many examples of how you benefit if you're able to make a strong impression at once when showing off your goods.
I'm posting the image here, though taken from their official site and not Gamereactor.
I felt I needed a relaxing evening today after work, so I just sat down and started throwing my pen around for fun. Please note the "fun" and lack of "quality".
Here are some of our beloved heroes:
I got a comment yesterday about this blog from a friend and co-worker; Cozy Dave. I haven't tried translating his nickname to English before, sounds awesome.
He thinkgs there aren't enough pictures here. Now, he might be right. I know I sometimes get a little carried away with the writing, hence many posts being heavy on text with an abrupt endingwhen I realise I've probably written to much yibberish and try and stop.
So I'll try and make my posts easier on the eyes with more copyrights-protected images. For starters I updated the "Pretty Art"-post since it's very topic is graphics in games. Just do a search for "Pretty Art" and you'll find it if the link is broken.
I consider myself to be a big fan of the Fallout-franchise (Black Isle Studios) loving both Fallout and Fallout 2 while thinking Fallout Tactics was a more than decent strategy game. I haven't played Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel for the "last-gen consoles".
After only two play-sessions of Fallout 3 (Bethesda), I had played for about 15 hours. Today, almost two weeks later I have about 20-25 hours of play.
I haven't touched the game for over a week.
Somehow, I don't miss playing Fallout 3. I'm not intrigued to see what happens next or to discover new areas to venture.
As I said, I love Fallout and Fallout 2. Even today I enjoy playing them. When talking about the games with friends I get excited! I get happy! I'm thinking about how fun the games are, the quirky characters and the great sense of humor even though the game takes place in a all but happy setting.
When thinking of Fallout 3, I don't feel that at all. Somehow, it has very little appeal. Admittedly I've spent many hours on the game, especially when I just got it. If the game wasn't any good at all, I would never dedicate that much time for it.
Allow me to draw the conclusion that when playing the game, it's exciting enough and motivates me to keep on playing. So the gameplay isn't at fault here.
The problem with the game is therefore getting me to actually sit down and start the game. But when reminiscing about Fallout 3 I keep thinking about the unappealing aspects.
Instead of thinking about how fun VATS (the combat-system in the game) is (which it really is!) I think about how tedious the game often becomes when I haven't been in a fight for hours. How unexciting it is when I crawl through the sixth railway-station with nearly no lights.
The environments in Fallout 1 and 2 are quite bright but rugged and teared down. They also use some colors which makes the game a little easier on the eyes. Of course, by today's standards they aren't pretty.
In Fallout 3 however, mostly everything is dark. Way too dark if you ask me. And it's eerie; some places seems to come from a horror game like Alone in the Dark (Eden Games) or Silent Hill (Konami) with corpses laying around, bodies hanging from the ceiling with spikes through their torsos and stuff like that. That's doesn't resemble the original Fallout-world in any way!
On top of that the game uses only two colors with some shade-variations; brown and grey. It's so boring and uninteresting it kills me. I understand what they're trying to do with their run down world and everything but I can't respect a decision like that when the result is such a plain and dull esthetic style
Gears of War (Epic Games) only uses grey (not even brown!) and they manage to have it look good. Shame on you Bethesda.
Not only do I find the environments uninteresting (graphics-wise, the content is good) but also ugly. That's right, I said it; ugly. I don't think that quantity is ever an adequate excuse for having the game look less good. I understand that having huge worlds requires some serious optimization and the amount of time available for polishing for each square-inch decrease but for me as a player and not a developer, I shouldn't have to take that into consideration. Players don't care about the magic we call technology, they (we!) only care about what's presented.
I realize this is becoming a post majoring in bashing on the graphics in Fallout 3, so I'll stop now.
Laughter. I love it. I don't get much from Bethesda. Fallout 1 and 2, even though not perfect games in any way have some really funny stuff. Things that'll make you smile and show your teeth whether you want to or not. That's not the case with Fallout 3.
During my 20+ hours I've only found one really funny scenario and that's about 10 minutes into the game when I asked a kid if his mom had boozed up all of his family's food-coupons. Serves him right, stupid kid! Other than that, the game just isn't funny. It's just dark and gritty. Not very Falloutish according to me.
Maybe it's because I've somehow manage to miss and evade every funny thing in the game but if that's the case, that's a major flaw within the game.
It probably sounds like I hate the game. I really don't. I like it a lot. I intend to finish the game at least once, playing as evil of course. I just think it's sad that the game somehow manage to burn all the not so good things with the game right into my brain, making me lose the urge to play it.
If the LittleBigPlanet-release (a game I'm still playing everyday!) hadn't been just a few days away from Fallout's, causing me to leave Fallout for a while, then maybe I wouldn't feel this way about it. If Fallout had been the only game I got during a time span of a couple of weeks, then maybe I would love the game. Y'know, if I'd just kept playing it and playing it as I did in the beginning, not giving myself the chance to see if I actually miss playing it if I don't.
When thinking about the game, I don't smile. That's too bad really; I wanted it to be everything it could have been.
This has really made me realize presenting a steady stream of interesting scenarios and creating pleasant memories is a vital part of game design.
[UPDATED November 30, 2008]: Images added
The graphics and art in games have continually changed over time. One way of saying it would be to say that games are becoming better looking. I’ll exclude the discussion about how beautiful pixels are for now.
If nothing else, at least the games nowadays are more technically impresseive and complex than ever before. With games like Crytek’s Crysis and Ubisoft’s Far Cry 2 leading the train of games with “realisting looking graphics”, developers continue to race towards the absolute photo realism in games.
I’m not all that interested in working towards that goal. Today games have severe problems with the uncanny valley. When things are getting too close to getting real we can see all the small problems much more easily and our suspension of disbelief is shattered.
The uncanny valley is based on a Japanese fellow called Masahiro Mori.
The uncanny valley is a hypothesis that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The "valley" in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot's lifelikeness.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_Valley (avaliable 9/11-08)
The things that may break the feeling of the game being real can vary, it can be poor lip sync (Bethesda’s Oblivion, anyone?), “dead looking” eyes, an otherwise realistic environment being empty of objects, animations looking unnatural, a human taking a sniper bullet in the head without even falling down.
And one more thing (oh, some of you are gonna hate me for saying this), if I want to look at the reality, I can just look out the window.
Personally I prefer games working with an artistic style that allows the developers to create anything they want without ruining my immersion. I know not everyone is a fan of this, but I’m a huge fan of cel-shading. Of course, not all cel-shaded games look great just because of it but some games… Oh man… Some games just look astonishing!
A truly great looking game that’s not cel-shaded is DICE’s Mirror’s Edge. If you haven’t tried out the demo yet, do it right after you’ve finished this. It’s available on both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.
What DICE has chosen to do with Mirror’s Edge is giving it an artistic style. It’s clean, futuristic, interesting and it’s cognitively brilliant! They use strong colors to get the players attention and if you ask me, every frame of the game is a great screen shot. It’s mainly the environments in this game that impress me. The enemies you meet aren’t spectacular in any way but nor does the game focus on enemy encounters. It focuses on avatar navigation through the surroundings.
Though, let’s go back to cel-shading.
There’s been quite a number of cel-shaded games and I’m glad to see that the amount seems to increase. Just look at Gametrailers.com (available 9/11-08) for example; pretty many of the games shown there are using one or another form of cel-shading. The new Prince of Persia-game from Ubisoft for example; cel-shaded.
One of the games making the best use of the cel-shading technology isn’t new though. In fact, it’s six years old and has had several sequels since. I’m talking about Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Today, six years after its making I can still look at it and say; “Damn, that looks good!” There is not one thing I feel could be done better thanks to today’s tech. It's amazing how expressive and communicative they've managed to make Link. Show me a game using “realistic looking” graphics that old being that impressive?
Another gorgeous game that recently caught my eye is SEGA’s Valkyria Chronicles for the Playstation 3. As far as I understand it’s using their new engine making it possible to render the game looking like it’s painted with water colors. I don’t know anything else about the engine but as far as I can tell, it does its job. The Valkyria Chronicles demo is available for download right now. With an interesting and anime inspired design the developers manage to get every screenshot to look good. It’s far from perfect and unfortunately some textures on the ground etc. seem very plain. But I still really like the art.
(Same video but on Gametrailers, in HD http://www.gametrailers.com/player/37800.html?type=flv )
Imagine a drum whirl, please, for I will now present you with the best looking game… ever? It’s by far the best looking game right now with its release in February and a Must Buy for many. I’m talking about Street Fighter IV. For me, Capcom does everything right with this title when it comes to the artsy stuff. Really, go out and do some YouTubeing and Gametrailersering (?) and watch the trailers and gameplay-videos if you haven’t already.
With a great sense of style, they use some form cel-shading technology along with superb animations, clear and exaggerated expressions on the characters accompanied by some great effects (the ink! The ink!) and use of strong colors. It’s bold and it’s beautiful.
(Same video but on Gametrailers with much better quality: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/40556.html available 18/11-08)
All these games are free to roam about with creativity, using super moves, quirky beasts, bazooka-carrying knights while we as players suck it all in; completely immersed. There is nothing wrong, for within the context established by the art-style, it's just as plausible as anything.
I don't want a photography, I want a painting.
When looking at this, I see great things in the future.
Just a little something I did just now before going to bed. Painting relaxes me once I get into it. It doesn't matter that I don't have mad skills, I still find it stimulating and soothing.
Work in Progress.