Participation Blog Post

Throughout the semester, this course bought up many intellectually challenging topics for discussions that was often met with either bustling banter or silent contemplation.  While many consider the former more comfortable, there is a merit to the latter response as well.  That is not to say, that I always chose silence over action, but I offered my offering towards the class’s discussions and lecture if and only when a proper and informed response could be formed.  I have turned in the majority of graded blog post assignments, save for the ones I missed while ill – but more importantly, each and every major project given was turned in promptly and executed as instructed.

The question of participatory involvement hinges not on what is deserved, but rather what was earned – and I’ve indeed earned at least a “B” grade in participation.  Gaming has a special role in my life, as it does for every other student in this course; but what guarantees success in the end isn’t a simple love for fun – rather, it is the ability to apply complexity and scholarly study towards it; and in doing so, gaming as an art form thrives as an art form.  I’ve learned this from the times I’ve taken part in talks amongst peers and also to the instructor, and a mere “C” or below average participation grade could never accomplish that.

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Snake Oil Team Blog Post

STORYBOARD: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1nn9aS6f5ssAf6YZB9WT7FGuDtzQSJP0CSf9tm3Xhutc/edit#slide=id.p

SNAKE OIL TEAM MEMBERS:

https://luu108gaming.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/snake-oil-team-build/

https://foy108gaming.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/snake-oil-team-blog-post/

https://ma108gaming.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/the-joys-of-life/

The Joys of Life (Description)

     “The Joys of Life” is an immersive, innovative multiplayer board game for three to five players in a party setting to experience.  Together, players will progress through the four stages of life: Childhood, School Years, Adulthood, and Elderhood.  A cast of unique and varied character avatars that will shape the path to retirement are available to explore.  Combining the fun of “Cards Against Humanity” and the intricacies of role playing elements from “Talisman”, players will not only be playing a game, but creating a rich narrative.

Band together, or even against one another – players will pave their way towards the end of life, be it retirement or death.  Craft a lifelong profile filled with mishaps, disease, fortunes, and misfortunes as one accrues resources of Money, Social Network, Education, and Health.  Experience laughter and rage as each game is never the same – each draw of the card will inflict beneficial harm or harmful boons that craft a specialized story path for each player avatar.

“The Joys of Life” includes codes for a companion app for iOS and Android devices, helping to ease the player experience by organizing and tracking each and every resource on character sheets.

 

The Joys of Life (Team Rationale)

     The creative process for “The Joys of Life” is centered upon one core concept: to parody the intricate and constant ups and downs of real life.  From there, the idea was refined into being framed within the board game medium; and the two biggest inspirations for this development were discussions of the card game “Cards Against Humanity” as well as the board game “Talisman”. Therefore, this product needed to embody comedic unpredictability for fun, as well as be complex enough in its mechanics for the target audience of teenagers and adults.   Having worked with programs such as Twine or InkleWriter before, the creative team felt it was time to work with new tools – to explore and learn the potentials for a multiplayer board game’s ability to present unique narratives.  The implementation of multiple characters to represent the players allowed several starting points towards this goal, as well as giving the players the ability to craft their own stories.  By making this decision, the issue of the “interactive paradox” arose – the authorial intent of the creators of these specific character avatar profiles would clash with player intention as they received different events and happenstances through the drawing of cards (JHGDM, 291).  To resolve this, the structure of how the character profiles operated was changed to allow further freedom towards the player: sex, gender, and name are all malleable elements of the individual character sheets.  These decisions are also not purely cosmetic, as it greatly affects the player’s journey through the game – adding positive or negative modifiers to certain cards they would attain.  In effect, the great lengths at which this game offers player participation in story crafting places it within the definition of an “interactive narrative” (JHGDM, 293).  With each card drawn, and each tile space of the game board explored – the players experience their own branching paths, and in doing so create a hypertext narrative that parallels the metagame of accruing resources to win in the end.

 

Collaborative Presentation Reviews

The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind

      The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind by Bethesda Game Studios stands as a major milestone for the evolution of role playing games.  Unlike the predecessors that preceded this work, such as Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana, and Phantasy StarMorrowind offers the player an abundant array of freedom by which they can customize their own play experience.  From the smallest detail of individual stat points to the macrocosmic moral decisions you make during the story quests, Morrowind presents a sandbox open world narrative that strikes out of the usual linear narratives that role playing games adhere to.  The gameplay on its own however, seems quite dull – sticking to a first person perspective while the player swing a melee weapon or sling spells does not offer much in terms of excitement, especially when the scale of the game expands out to sixty hours and beyond.  Morrowind’s quirks are at an apex in regards to the Non-Player Character death system; as murdering any NPCs will result in their permanent death, eliminating any quest lines or services they would have offered to the player.  The most important advancement towards the digital story telling medium that Bethesda imparts with Morrowind stems from the idea that win states don’t necessarily stand as the focal point of narratives – as players can shape and build a path purely out of a personalized fantasy experience.

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos

     Blizzard Entertainment proudly displays this game as a love letter to the inspirations that birthed it – Dune, Dungeons & Dragons, and the Real Time Strategy genre.  There is an interesting dichotomy between the play styles of the game: the casual story-latent campaign experience and the intense fast paced meta-gaming of competitive multiplayer.  Those who seek the deep lore of Warcraft’s universe and characters, mainly the explorers and socializers, can find little umbrage in the campaign, which boasts an impressive array of four storylines – each with a different protagonist and race perspective.  Achievers and Killers, on the other hand, thrive on the competitive online multiplayer mode.  Real Time Strategy gaming stands at the apex within this mode, where players exercise the Heuristic Cycle and micro-manage various details of their armies.  Even a simple match against a computer AI is an intensive matching of wits that places the responsibility of managing money, food, units, and other resources.  This constant cycle of information gathering, acting upon intel, and feedback acknowledgement are the foundations behind Warcraft III’s gameplay – an experience that emphasizes the full time commitment of each and every player.  However, the game’s emphasis on fast paced exciting multiplayer unfortunately leaves the campaign storyline’s much slower paced quest narrative fall flat in terms of pacing.

The Stanley Parable

     The Stanley Parable offers a unique angle on parodying the various tropes of narrated storytelling, as well as utilizing player agency as a tool for comedy.  Its greatest strength lies in just that- the comedic jokes and lighthearted tone that the narrator exudes as the player progresses through several choices of linear paths that resemble a hypertext narrative.  The greatest failing of this work, however, lies in the very cynical nature of its parodies.  The Stanley Parable presents itself to have at least vague understandings of how players will make their choices, as well as what information they will use to inform those decisions; but the game never quite attains that extra milestone of going further than just negatively portraying these tropes as being annoying or goofy.  For a game that is clearly attempting to subtly imply a message of the futility of struggle in an environment of an interactive paradox.  As Stanley, the player has freedom in what they do and where they go – but only within the confines that the narrator himself has defined for them.  In that sense, this game is profound in presenting the issue of author intention versus player agency on the most surface level.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

    In what is considered even to today to be Bioware’s genre defining game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic truly serves as a marker for the company’s storytelling style for even their future games.  The branching dialogue choice system, while seeming quite impressive at first, proves itself to be quite minimal and linear in practice.  There are always three options for dialogue: ask for information, be antagonistic, or be kind.  While these offer a simpler way for characters to role play towards a singular attitude, it defeats the purpose of a “branching” hypertext narrative to only have three threads to go from at all times; and this is diluted still further when one considers that one of the branches is simple information gathering.  The oddity of this system further accentuates by the mere fact that dialogue does not impact the player’s moral standing at all within the longer end-game goal; instead, the morality gauge is relegated to the outcomes of quests that you undertake.  While one could argue that this is Bioware’s way of emphasizing action over words in terms of building an identity – this also creates a void pertaining to whatever crucial impact dialogue choices did offer to the greater story narrative of the Evil Sith versus the Good Jedi forces.

Dark Souls

     Dark Souls, by From Software redefines the concept of difficulty and challenge to an action adventure frame.  Heavily inspired by its predecessor, Demon’s Souls, From Software expands on the idea of challenging players through harsh trial and error, where they will die time and time again.  In very much the same veins as Morrowind, one of the main draws of this game lies in its boisterous customization options towards a player experience: appearance, class, weapons, stats, bonuses, and much more are within control – all which are necessary to promote the ideas of player freedom and instilling a sense of community.  While Dark Souls is marketed and presented as a solo experience, the game makes an interesting statement on the tribal nature of players in terms of grouping and hunting.  When cooperatively assisting another player, the game presents to a shared experience with another player – an ally to depend on and trust as one navigates the perils of the game.  On the other side of the spectrum, a player can act as a malevolent entity and seek out to destroy other players in their own story paths – and if they succeed they are rewarded with currency, which subsequently leads to rewards to be traded with.  While the game identifies itself as a game that epitomizes the difficulty curve a player must undergo, the game also offers an interesting reflection of the duality of tribal impulses within the players.

Journey

     Simply by seeing the artistic direction and beauty of the cell-shaded graphics, the amount of dedication and vision of thatgamecompany is clear.  Similar to Limbo, Journey is an experience that emphasizes the subtleties of an underlying story, while also playing on the multiple senses of the players; however, whereas Limbo utilizes sensory deprivation to create a tense, somber, and hostile world – Journey instead overloads players’ senses of sight and hearing to create an enriching experience.  The shifting watery sands accompanied by idyllic ruins and temples are topped off by a marvelous soundtrack that works up the grandiose scale of the journey by which the player takes.  The multiplayer aspect, being inspired by the creator’s own hiking trips, offers an interesting idea on a less intrusive version of Dark Soul’s cooperative system.  Instead of a player having to be summoned to your game at a whim, you have a chance of encountering another mysterious player on your journey; and this keynotes the central theme of the game: the agency of silence and mystery.  The players are told nothing about the plot or purpose by they which undertake this “journey” – only strange and symbolic hieroglyphics are given as hints towards an underlying story, and even then the developers still leave things up to player interpretation.  This especially appeals to achievers and explorers – as these types of players will find their end-game goal to be to gain a greater grasp at Journey’s lore.

Parallel Play Session # 1

Partner: Brandon Zhou – https://zhou108gaming.wordpress.com/

Brandon chose Normal Mode over No-Sweat mode, and prefers to use Mouse and Keyboard control configurations instead of a controller.  He rushes straight through the tutorial beginning – his goal seems to be to get the main game quickly without delay.  He likes to dodge roll constantly for traversal, as it seems to be quicker than walking around normally.  He only stops once in a while to read the flavor text of collectible items if he is interested.  Seemingly, Brandon has created a rule within his own game space to destroy any and all destructible crates, barrels, or boxes if he encounters them.  Prefers to use the Fang Reaper ranged weapon for offense, and using the shield for defense – using the hammer only when enemies surround him or he is out of ammo.  He uses the Breaker Bow’s increased allowance of precise controlled aiming to his advantage to dispatch of turrets.  When choosing which passive perks to equip in the Distillery, he chooses the Fetching Fizz drink for easier pick up of dropped items.  He chooses to skip using the Arsenal and instead keeps his current equipment load out of the Hammer and the Bow.  Through traversing the level, he has fallen off them map accidentally once or twice, due to rushing through with dodge rolling.  During combat for the “boss” of the tutorial level, he still adheres to his previous tactics and rules for combat by keeping to a distance and using ranged attacks over up-close melee strikes.  In the final escape from the tutorial level, Brandon decides not to rush through the enemies and turrets and instead slowly eliminate them one by one – as a result he does not seem to like leaving untouched elements in his game.  When given the option of what structure to build first for the Bastion hub level, he chooses the Arsenal and acquires the Mirror Shield.