Categories: "Personal Life"
I was very interested in going to Dennis Dyack's talk on games as the eight art, it seemed like a bit of a silly talk in some respects, he was explaining how he feels the telling of stories is going to become much more noticeably dominant than gameplay, which myself and I'm sure a large portion of the audience didn't really agree with. There were a large amount of questions raised on his opinions at the end of the talk.
Going back on Jenova Chen's talk and his "visual bucket" way of creating a good game through creating an even flow between each element is where I would agree. Dyack's example was of Myst being one of his favourite games, which of course being a point and click/interactive narrative/graphic adventure or what you may wish to define it as, although being a well laid out story, just like every other point and click, it doesn't captivate all players and then targets a niche market in terms of consumers.
Dyack feels that every single game has a narrative, which doesn't essentially mean the story of it, so for example his idea of the narrative of an RTS game is defined by telling your friends about what happened in the game when you played it, then creating your own unique story.
One subject he touched which I don't essentially agree with is Dyack feels that games can only really be compared alongside film once there is one console for all games, as he felt with three main consoles out they aren't broadly accepted by all. The reason he claims this will make games become more accepted is as he feels there is only one way for film to get across to the general population, which isn't necessarily true.
Although it did seem that the only reason he felt games needed to become recognised as an art form, is so that they would be taken seriously, which I don't think is hugely essential, as people's views are constantly changing on games as time passes by.
Overall it was a fairly interesting view into his view on games, the questions at the end were a little negative towards him though.
The first scheduled event of Thursday morning that I decided to go see was the Designer mash up with Jenova Chen and Masaya Matsuura. It started off with Masaya playing Flower, where he explained to us how he doesn't play a huge amount of games because he doesn't enjoy shooting and killing people. So instead of playing a large majority of games that were released he spent a large amount of his time thinking up new game possibilities. So when he played Flower for the first time he fell in love with it, as it brought up a whole host of memories from his past that touched him. He told Jenova how he was so pleased to be able to meet him, and was very surprised at how young he was, for making such an emotionally complex game.
Just like Flower, Parappa the Rapper took around two years to develop, and was created by about six people. On release they received large amounts of positive feedback, and weirdly lots of feedback saying how couples had gotten together because of his game.
An odd topic that was brought up is that Matsuura-san believes there should be a Michael Jackson of games, as there is currently not one in existence, and he feels this will bring a wider appreciation to games.
Whenever Jenova needed inspiration he would always look to Hayao Miyazaki's films, he explained that the reason he did this was because in order to understand a culture that he was not a part of, he finds the messages he needs to understand a large segment of Miyazaki's films.
It was really interesting sitting in on the designer mash-up only if it was to see a long standing person from the games industry talking with such a recent addition to games. But even though there is a significant gap in industry knowledge they're ideas are both at such interesting levels.
The Art keynote of the conference was one given by Mark Healey and Kareem Ettouney of Media Molecule, focusing mainly on what decisions were made when creating Little Big Planet. If anything the main focus of the presentation was showing us the process they went through when choosing the direction they wished the art to go in.
It started off with the idea of wanting to create a tool with a visual style that compliments it, from this they started looking into visual cultures of different countries, going over how they could integrate this into their game.
There was a lot mentioned on their early stages of development, firstly with reference to Yellowhead which was their 2D physics demo originally created to show the idea of what they wanted in Little Big Planet.
We were also shown a quick little animation that Mark had made showing what they were aiming to do in 3D. With the core gameplay then being nailed down they then went back into the art, attempting to create a virtual craft box inside of the game.
The third talk of the day that I attended was a panel on games as architecture, which was extremely interesting mainly just from hearing Viktor Antonov's explanations of what input he had on Half-Life 2. It was also made up of Alex Wiltshire of Edge, Rob Watkins of Lionhead and Rory Olcayto of The Architect’s Journal.
Viktor Antonov had always been attracted to epic scale buildings, and similar iconic architecture as found in film, and he started off working in industrial design, but decided to go into video games.
Some key points that should be known pieces of information when looking over architecture found in games, and that I agree with are:
- Everything in games are establishing shots – shots that will set up the scene that the player is about to experience.
- The main tools tools available to direct a level to the player are by using architecture and light, these will aid in telling a story while getting the player to go along the correct path.
- In order to create monumental buildings and views you must create a contrast by creating many smaller items and buildings, this helps to create the illusion of a larger presence.
Another means to lead the player is by creating strong perspectives and focal points, this then tricks the player into going the correct way through the level.
There are not enough surreal and subjective architectural experiences in games.
What was interesting was that Viktor did a talk on Futurism at an architecture school, and it then became apparent that all the students played games for a means of looking into architecture, especially Half Life 2. Which I find very intriguing as one of the questions raised at the panel was what can architecture learn from video games.
The second talk of the day that I had a chance to witness was Paul Barnett's talk on his time as a creative director for EA, entitled 'When a Creative Director Attacks! or What I Learned this Year with EA!'. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from the talk, it was hugely enjoyable and anyone I spoke to about it agreed as well. It was a little confusing at times being a very fast paced speech, going off on tangents and finishing some explanations minutes after first mentioning them, but it still flowed evenly.
The useful pieces that I plucked from his talk however were that, ideas can still be exciting even if they're mundane tasks, this can be from carrying it out for the first time and being exhilarated from the fact of performing the task, or renewing a forgotten pleasure. It's how creative directors must think, as once a task has been carried out, once it's repeated it won't have the same impact upon a person. An example given of this is when you have someone see an iPhone for the first time and they become fascinated by scrolling back and forth on the menu, where as someone who has owned one for a while would find it idiotic to be so entranced by this. A creative director must make sure to stray away from this at all times, otherwise they will never be able to envision fresh ideas.
A large proportion of the talk was on how you're defined by your culture, I could relate to Paul as I seemed to have the same childhood as he did (just of course more recent than his), being raised with games. He was referring to it as our ‘Golden Age’; some may have theirs at other times with greater influence from other forms of media. After talking about how much these "Golden Ages" mean to us, we were then told to completely ignore them. As being a creative director that allows their history to get in the way will not work well with other employees. It stops workflows, everyone has a different history and will not understand everything that you may talk about. This can then cause arguments and will not help the development of games. His blunt way of putting it was that nobody cares about your history, so don't bring it into your work.
We were then told that every manager/director is either going to be a Captain Kirk, or a Captain Picard when it comes to working. Which is a little of a weird way to put it, but I felt that people may have the chance to be both at times, depending on the decisions being made.
The talk went onto what he feels is disrupting games at the moment, those things being the Nintendo Wii; allowing anyone to get into playing games, which then changes demographics. The market is currently disruptive, by now having free to play games, and the use of micro transactions, there now no longer being just simple buying when it comes to purchasing or playing games. Then of course the internet doesn't help things, from the elements of a disruptive market coming into play along with the use of torrenting.
Even though it was one of the less informative in a way it had to have been my favourite talk from the conference, just from the amount of energy and enthusiasm Paul expressed.
Jenova Chen co-founder of thatgamecompany, best known for Flow and Flower attended Develop and had one of the first talks of the Wednesday. I did actually miss the first five or so minutes of his talk, but from what I walked in on I was entranced straight away. When people discuss entertainment and our opinions we use feelings to express our thoughts. In order to consider games as a form of entertainment people must talk about them in the same way as film. Although when receiving this feedback on a video game it is usually based on technical aspects of the game, feelings don't even usually come into the equation.
Most people will usually think something such as combining genres to make hybrids will make a game innovative, make them stand out above the rest, where as this is not usually the case. Jenova hopes in the future to see a much wider mix of feelings integrated into games, as these types of feelings and emotions haven’t really been addressed as much as they could have. It's hard to find a game that will encourage the player to become emotionally attached to the characters, story or game while having a suitable gameplay experience.
Jenova recommended reading The Visual Story written by Bruce Block, from reading his work he then applied it to games by creating a visual bucket that combines graphics, story, sound and gameplay. Jenova feels in order to have an overall satisfying experience from a game, the levels in the bucket need to be fairly even, and not be missing out too much on some of the factors. As most games will usually focus on one key element such as graphics or gameplay, which will then make a game less attractive.
For example Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Shadow of the Colossus and Bioshock are games that Jenova feels portray a certain quality of life, as many games do not and just exist for a play experience. He does also recommend however playing Passage by Jason Rohrer, which attempts to portray certain feelings.
A lot of what he spoke of in relation to creating Flower can be downloaded off the Playstation Network in the form of a development diary, but there were a few points that I had not heard before, for example before Flower was designed Jenova wished to create a game based around nature, in order to do this he wanted to know what the most popular thoughts were when talking on nature. Through searching on flickr for nature and flowers were the third highest tag at the time, leading him to choose them.
With Flower he wished to create a peaceful harmony inside the game, this is why he had decided against enemies or a chance of death. He feels that NiGHTS was close to creating this experience, but wasn’t quite there. With the flying element it accomplishes this feeling, but from having a small limit on time and enemies that attack you, it destroys this harmony which you gain from flying around. Flower went through many different iterations when deciding on the gameplay, from playing as the Sun and making flowers grow, to throwing seeds in the ground and making them grow up from the soil. There were a lot of silly versions of Flower which they had considered, and I must say I'm very happy they kept with the core concept that Flower can now be seen with.
Currently working on an unannounced title he commented on the fact that, from creating games that work with feelings it means that the game is all about the experience. In order to create the exact experience required, the technology needed will have to be as new as possible as creating feelings for a player is not an easy task, which can then of course make it harder when developing the game using new tools all the time.
Recently on the Women in Games (WiG) blog, Emma Westecott wrote up a post about needing a student blogger for two events, I'd say I jumped at the chance of it, although I had forgotten until last minute before the deadline to actually send my email I had composed. All because I'd been super busy with moving house the same weekend.
So I rushed to McDonalds to use their free Wi-Fi (pretty much the only place in Aldershot with free Wi-Fi), as I'm currently without the internet.
A couple of days later I heard back from Emma telling me I'd been chosen, which I'm ecstatic and completely blown away by, I never would have thought I would be picked for it, but then I don't really know how many people tried to get the little job.
Either way it now means that I get to go to Develop and DiGRA, which I am very happy about, as I originally intended on buying myself a ticket for Develop, and without much money at the moment it may have made living a problem and DiGRA I could have only afforded once I had a job.
So keep an eye on the WiG blog as hopefully there shall be some posts up by me soon.
Huge thanks though to everyone that had to do with me being picked as well.
So it’s finally come to the end of my three years at University and I happily have come out with a nice first like I posted about before. Now my life begins, I’ve moved to Aldershot, Hampshire, as opposed to going back to Chelmsford, Essex, as I felt I would be less productive if I lived at home.
So why Aldershot I hear you ask?
Well it’s not as expensive as Guildford, Surrey (a key place in the games industry, plus close to London and home) but it’s just down the road, and close to London, along with everywhere else that Guildford is close to, just add or subtract around 20-30 minutes on top of travel time when going in certain directions.
I will honestly miss Newport, but there was no real reason to stay in Wales, so I had to leave. Unpacking is almost complete give it another day maybe to get everything nice and neat and tidy. I also need to finish work on Void, send out more CVs and get my business cards designed, coloured and printed all before Develop, which should be interesting.