VR titles // Konrad Krawczyk

Notes on Blindness:

Beautiful. Subtle. At times quite difficult. The mostly blue and purple colour palette really works well. The sky looked a bit underwhelming, but most of the time the objects around caught your attention enough not to get distracted.

#subtle #thoughtProvoking

10/10

Horizons:

#gorgeous #soundsLikeBjork #looksLikeaCyberPunkForest #theControlsAreKindaWeird #butTheExperienceMakesUpForIt

8/10

Accounting:

All I could experience throughout the playtime was standing in a box and listening to a bug yelling curses at me. At least the bug was funny.

#fun #dark #bewareOfTrickyControls

6/10

Gran Turismo:

I didn’t think that you could make a game that’s less visually appealing in VR than on a TV screen.
Also, makes me think what is the point of even putting racecar games in VR. The UX is far from amazing, we got lost in the menu several times.

#meh

3/10

also new titles:

Becoming Homeless: A Human Experience

http://store.steampowered.com/app/738100/Becoming_Homeless_A_Human_Experience/

This 8-minute interactive experience was created by the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab. There is a sense (and there’s evidence for it) that VR is a powerful tool for enhancing a sense of empathy with experiences of others. Homelessness is a situation that is unimaginable to many, but the truth is it can happen to any of us at some point. And it’s about much more than not having a place to live – it’s about a lack of safety, lack of visibility and reliable social safety net. I hope that this experience can capture at least to some degree what it means not to have a home, and that it is prepared in a respectful way; I hope that technology will not be an obstacle to mutual understanding, but rather an enhancement of it. I’m not sure yet how much of it can be conveyed through such a short, interactive form – but definitely an area worth looking into. (7/10)

The American Dream:

I based my choice on a review, and a set of trailers.

https://uploadvr.com/the-american-dream-vr-pax-east/.

It seems a bit dark. The American Dream seems to me a continuation of the trend of satire representing (or even replacing) social and political commentary in the US. Shooting things GTA-style might be very fun – even more so in VR – until you think about the underlying message. From the initial releases and reviews, I could see a ridiculously good use of American pop-cultural tropes like 60s ads, family pictures, doughnuts (yes, you can make a doughnut shooter), and the voice-over talking about “guns as pillars of the society” is just another hint for me that it can be hilarious – and thought-provoking for the user. (8/10)

#dark #gunsAsPillarsOfSociety #satire #political

Analysis of a Game: Way of the Ninja (Krom)

Justin Amoafo

Games as Art

Professor Sarah Fay Krom

7 February 2018

Analysis of a Game: Way of the Ninja (Krom)

Background:

The game I decided to analyze is called Way of the Ninja or “N game,” informally. The first version released in 2004 as a web-based game. This was the version I played in school, growing when computers were first introduced the classroom. It was a great way to pass the time and featured (what seemed like) unlimited levels which after a certain point felt impossible to complete. The basic premise of the game is as follows: you’re a stick version of a ninja, jumping around a geometrical maze. There are several different features such as platforms to bounce on, elevators to take you up or down a given area, and yellow boxes which you eat to earn points. Of course, there are also obstacles such as mimes which cause death on contact. At long last, the goal is to get from the starting point to an ‘exit’ without dying.

N game doesn’t feature too many rules, the main tenet is to get from point A to point B without dying. You can bounce off of walls, run, and use all the props to avoid obstacles. If you fall from too high of a point, you will hit the ground and die. The actions are basic, just like the rules: run, jump, bounce.

Way of the Ninja has evolved in its 14 years of existence, and now has an evolved version called “N+” which can be played on PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Nintendo DS, and several other platforms. Unfortunately, I don’t own any ‘console’ other than a Mac Laptop, so I decided to play it the old fashioned way and see if there were any noticeable changes.

Analysis:

As a non-gamer, it was difficult for me to think of a game I wanted to play, let alone one that potentially had some artistic implications.

However, I look at Way of the Ninja as an art game, both based on the premise that games are an art form, and also due to its aesthetic simplicity. As a major criteria we explored in class, aesthetics are, in my opinion, the bread and butter of a game. For someone like me who does not game often, I view each game like a book; if the cover looks interesting, I don’t mind diving in and seeing what it has to offer.

Being that I’ve never made a serious habit of gaming, very few games appeal to me and draw me in. Way of the Ninja was one of them, because it doesn’t seek to bring the player into a fantasy environment with crazy characters and intricate scenes. Instead, it takes you into a simply designed environment with small, intentional tweaks made to each new level.

Across the different levels you can see custom crafted scenes and maze patterns, from Octopuses to Snakes. The latest version of N has 2,360 levels. I couldn’t get to level 2,360, but from what I did explore, the levels are all atheistically consistent with subtle changes that make each one special.

N features a built-in level editor, called Ned. This function allows you to create your own levels, either to play by yourself or to share with the “community.” In this sense, the game technically has unlimited levels. This feature adds an interesting twist to the game by engaging community members, even if they aren’t actively playing together. This feature also enhances N’s artistic quality, as it promotes content creation. Each player can essentially create their own in-game masterpiece and show it off. This is, in essence, art.

So far as ‘meaningful play’ is concerned, I believe N formally fails in this category. As aforementioned, I was introduced to this game as an in-class pastime when I was young. There are no significant real-life applications or special connections that can be drawn from the game. It’s just simple and entertaining.

However, upon exploring the N community forum, people seem to find a lot of joy and meaning in the game. They have a ‘fan art’ section, which features art created both during game play as well as abstract paintings, drawings, and graphics. Although the game hasn’t been updated since 2013, the forums still remain active with hundreds of thousands of posts and comments across a few thousand topics. 

Analysis of a Game: Life Is Strange: EP1 (Krom) // Konrad Krawczyk

The first time I played Life is Strange was during a neuroscientific experiment. The objective of it was to gauge neurological processes in the body during gameplay. During the process, the main variable was about displaying a specific line of text prior to the gameplay, which said something along the lines of “Your choices will directly affect the life of you and the characters in the game. Choose wisely”. A lesson/warning of that kind has definitely increased my heart rate and excitement level. And it was up through the rest of the whole gameplay.

But the reason I picked this particular game – or, an episode of it – for the analysis, was that it interestingly transgressed the boundary between play and narrative, chiefly by balancing between linear and non-linear, and challenging the user’s personal values and experiences through giving them a choice.

The game Life is Strange is difficult to even classify within the genre scope. The Steam description defines the game as an “episodic adventure game”, although adventure seems a relatively vague term to describe it, and doesn’t fully reflect what I think is the most crucial reason why this game would constitute meaningful play. For the time being, I would call it an interactive narrative of choice. The game presents a story of a teenage girl named Max, who has a talent for photography, and a propensity to get into trouble. Her special power, however, is rewinding time – and she can use that to revert negative outcomes and help people, or some other way.  It is up to the player to decide.

However at first, the gameplay feels somewhat linear. This linearity of gameplay occurs on at least two levels: first, the predefined features of characters and the environment depicted in the game, and second, the limited amount of choices available to the player. The user starts off in the protagonist’s head, during one of her horrific dreams featuring a storm and a falling lighthouse. The only thing a user can do is: run. Later, the gameplay is interrupted by a series of lengthy cut-scenes of the protagonist’s inner monologue. After that, the player is gradually exposed to the possibilities and choices the game offers. Max, the protagonist, is sitting in a class, surrounded by personal objects – a diary, her laptop, and her Polaroid camera. The user is given a choice to take a selfie with that camera, which later becomes an ongoing theme for the main character. Objects throughout the game are clickable – however, most of them can only be looked at. Other options are only given when the object is relevant to the storyline, for example when you need to use a hammer to run a fire alarm in the bathroom. Other characters have the exact same, clickable interface as objects. You can come up to a person and look at them – or speak to them, if there is anything relevant to the story.

 

Generally, the user is being served a predefined storyline that is in line with strictly defined personalities of Max and the people around her. The main character is a high school student who, along with several other student, pursues a photography track. She possesses a talent for photography, but her conversations and overall classroom behavior are somewhat avoidant, and because of that her professor is pushing her to reveal her talent in art and photography. She is perceived as an individualist type – not very outgoing and confident, but with a strong sense of right and wrong. Often, it is impossible to make choices that the user can know for sure would be beneficial for the character. For example, when the photography teacher asks her about the meaning of daguerrotype, the only two options available are: “I’m sick” and “Can I go to the bathroom?” which is hardly any choice at all. Generally, despite the number of choices that the player can make regarding the protagonist, Max has a specific set of strengths, weaknesses and talents, that push her in certain directions and give her a specific role in the social life of her school. The user cannot make Max whatever they want her to be. This limitation, however, creates meaning in the narrative, as it allows the user to empathise with the protagonist, and immerse themselves with the story more fully.

There is one, extremely important talent of Max that makes the gameplay different from many other games. It is a common feature in games to put the user in risky situations – for example, the risk of being shot, or losing all your lives – in short, depleting a certain resource. This element seems almost essential for games, but In Life is Strange, many of these features don’t apply, as the protagonist is able to rewind time – meaning she can change the course of action based on prior knowledge. The user is forced to learn and use that power during the aforementioned photography class, in order to impress the teacher. But later, this same power is used to save the life of a student who was held at gunpoint in a school restroom. There are several instances when the protagonist herself might die, for example by the end of the gameplay she is crushed by a rolling stone. However, even in those moments we get a slo-mo camera and a voiceover “I have to rewind right now”, at which point the user knows exactly what to do. The player’s stress after negative outcomes is triggered in different ways – mostly through the black-white visuals, background music, and the nervous voiceover of the main character.

However, since the beginning there is a strong emphasis on the protagonist’s actions and their impact on other characters and the general storyline. As much as these moments are not too frequent (four throughout the whole first episode), they do influence the course of action, and their outcomes can be both immediate and short-term. The first choice is given during a conversation with the principal; we choose whether or not we should report or cover up a wealthy student who was about to shoot someone else with a gun. At first, I tried covering him up and pretending nothing happens, but then I could see the immediate reaction of Max was not that great, and I used the time rewind to change my decision and report the student. This has very soon backlashed, as the said student got into a fight with Max. However, reporting the student has improved Max’s relationship to the principal – and this is actually made apparent by the “friendship” stats in Max’s diary. It is made very clear whether or not a certain action will affect future gameplay, and what will be the immediate outcome.

Further on, when one of the security guards was abusing his authority to verbally harass a female student, Max had a choice to take a photo or to stand up in defence. I decided to stand up for the student, which has had an outcome at the end of the game, when it turned out that the aforementioned guard is actually an abusive stepfather of Max’s best friend. I believe the antipathy of the guard towards Max is bound to influence the course of action in further episodes, as he clearly showed an intention to make things harder for her. This possible outcome is made discernible by the Max’s inner monologue – she literally says to herself that this scenario was not good for her, and getting into a fight with the guard can affect her scholarship chances.

It is important that the choices given to the user are hardly straightforward. There is no right or wrong answer, and the player has to figure out the choice for themselves, based on their values, prior experience and perhaps pure gut feeling. For example in the security guard incident, the player had to choose whether to defect with a large, short-term personal gain (taking a photo of the encounter) or to stand up for another person – and maybe not take an award-winning photograph, but just be a decent human being instead. It occurs to me the only competitive aspect of this game is the way various interests and judgments are “competing” in the user’s mind during the play. It very much resembled the classic prisoner’s dilemma often.

Contrary to the more classic games like shooters, or even Mario, we don’t have a clear objective to follow like shooting the guru or saving a princess. Instead, the play itself is an objective. The end goal is the resolution of the storyline, which the user knows will be affected directly by their own choices. The important element of “risk” and suspense that keeps the user playing is the chance that the story may not end up that great for either Max or her friend, and it might be because of those choices. Throughout the game, we pursue the end result, but we don’t follow an objective – rather, we discover it.

Throughout the first episode, the future course of action is difficult to discern. However, one theme that seems to foreshadow future major events is the “missing person” of the campus, Rachel, whom everyone remembers but no one is able to reach out to. The way the posters are spread throughout nearly every corner of the environment, as well as the ways in which characters refer to “the missing person” might indeed increase excitement and suspense of the player, much like the TV series tend to leave an element of uncertainty for the viewer to come back for more.

It was difficult for me to classify the game as a certain genre, and even as a game at all – at times, it resembled an animated narrative with elements of interactivity. However, the ability of the main character to rewind time, as well as the choices that affect the ultimate outcome, are powerful features that constitute meaningful play with a potential for self-reflection for the player.

Analysis of a Game: the Magic Cat Academy (Krom) | Chuyi

The Magic Cat Academy is the Google 2016 Halloween Doodle Game. On that exact day two years ago, it appeared just above the search bar at the Google front page and caught my eyes instantly. I still remember how it broke my study plan by costing me one full hour drawing simple symbols on the trackpad. It’s true that the Magic Cat Academy is a casual game suitable for someone without any gameplay experience (like me) to play. However, the reason why it attracts me so much is exactly how it integrates simplicity and completeness in one, and how it embodies meaningful play through simple but powerful expression.
 jjjthis is space
The background story of the Magic Cat Academy is set through a short animation at the beginning of this game. On a Halloween night, a big ghost attacks the Magic Cat Academy and steals the master spell book. The player has to help the little cat repel all the ghosts by spell casting so that she can get the spell book back. Every ghost has special symbols above its head, in the shape of “ | ”, “—“, “^” or “v”. The player helps the cat swipes her magic wand by drawing the corresponding symbol using the mouse. There are five levels in total, with different backgrounds, ghosts, and difficulties.
 jjthis is space
The instruction given by the game is just one simple sentence: “Defeat a ghost by drawing its symbol anywhere”. However, the actual rules are more complex than this. The cat has five lives in total, and if they are all lost, the player will lose the game. The ghosts are approaching the cat at different speeds and must be defeated before they reach the cat and take one life of her. Another hidden rule is that when a little pink heart symbol appears at the left of the screen, the player can gain one life back by drawing a shape of the heart. Getting these two hidden rules are pretty intuitive. From the top-left corner of the game, the player can see that there are 5 heart shapes, representing 5 lives. Once a ghost reaches the cat, a heart will break and disappear. If the player draws the heart shape when the heart symbol appears, one heart will be back. Both the heart shape and the approaching ghosts can be considered nature simulation taken from the real fighting scene, and therefore make it easy for the player to grasp the concept.
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Some other hidden rules require more observation to discover. For example, the scoring system of the Magic Cat Academy works in this way: if you draw one symbol to hurt a normal ghost, you will get 10 scores, but if two ghosts have the same first symbol, they will both get hurt and you will get 30 scores in total, and so on. Another one is that if you draw correctly continuously the system would count the times and give you extra scores for that. I discovered these rules when I played through the whole game twice but got different overall scores. Then I noticed how the score changes over time and the little bar that counts your continuous correct times at the bottom.
 jjthis is space
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The objectives of the Magic Cat Academy is for the player to get through all 5 levels by defeating all the ghosts, and the main action the player takes to reach the goal is to draw symbols that match the ones on the ghosts’ heads. The choices the player can make are basically what to draw and when to draw. According to “What is a Game?” in Understanding Video Games, the Magic Cat Academy should be categorized as a single-player action game, whose “criterion for success is motor skill and hand-eye coordination”(48). Indeed, the play’s reaction is crucial to winning this game, and the intensity created by defeating the approaching ghost is what makes the game appealing. Still, unlike traditional action games that require nothing but skills. The Magic Cat Academy secretly offers players opportunities to make choices and using strategies, which brings about more player involvement.
 this is space
As I mentioned, every ghost has one or more special symbols above its head, and the symbols will disappear from the left side as the player draws corresponding symbols. One single spell can function on several ghosts sharing the same first symbol. Therefore, the player can outwit the ghosts by taking the most efficient drawing order. For example, when one ghost has a list of symbols like “ — | v ”, and another one has “ ^ |”, the fastest way to defeat them is to draw “ — ” and “ ^ ” first, and then “ | ” for a double kill. This hidden feature adds another layer of interaction between the player and the game system.
 this is space
The relationship between actions and outcomes is quite clear in the Magic Cat Academy, and it conforms to both the descriptive and the evaluative definition of the meaningful play defined by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman in “Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals”. The instant outcome of an action is discernable in many ways. Once the player draws a correct symbol, the actual outcome is that corresponding symbols will disappear immediately, and a ghost will disappear when all of its symbols die out. The visual intensification is that the ghost that got hurt will give a painful face, while the sound hint is a whine when a ghost is killed. Also, the score you get will go up. Regarding how the outcome is integrated into the whole game system, the drawing actions serve as a way to put the game forward. Only by defeating the ghosts at the current level can the player enter the next level and get closer to the big ghost that steals the spell book. The structure of the Magic Cat Academy seems very clear and organized to me. The levels are properly layered. The difficulty difference between those layers lies in not only the speed and amount of ghosts but also the type of them. There are ghosts that can move back and force, ghosts that can reproduce the symbols above its head, and ghosts with extremely long lists of symbols. Different combinations of these ghost enemies also make the game more fun.
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Though I’ve praised the Magic Cat Academy a lot for its simple but elegant game design, I have to say that what makes this game so special is its Halloween theme. The Google Doodle group who made this game talked about how they thought of the magic school, spell-casting and ghost objects to fit the game elements into the Halloween context. The jingling background music, the cute and dark visual style, and the cat character form a consistent Halloween feeling together. Therefore, the meaning of this game extends from a pure action pleasure to a festival experience.
 this is space
One interesting fact is that the feeling that I had when I played the Magic Cat Academy for this analysis is very different from when I first played it on the Google front page. As I played it intentionally for several times, I got bored because the five levels remain exactly the same every time. Later when I thought about this, I found that it’s not necessary a bad thing for a Google Doodle game! The fact that this game is built to put on the front page obscures the distinction between the search engine and the playground. The game suitable for the search engine playground may need not to be time-consuming and complex, but smart and simple.

Tyler Roman- Analysis of a Game: Crush Them All (Krom)

For the analysis of a game, I chose a phone game I have been playing for almost a year now by the title of Crush Them All (CTA). CTA is a game with a recently developed genre known as the idle RPG. Similar in nature to games such as the cookie clicker/counter game, the main idea behind idle RPG’s are that they essentially play themselves. Each session does not need to take multiple hours to accomplish something and in fact, the main style of playing is usually checking into the game for about 5 minutes multiple times a day and simply letting the game do its own thing. Looking at the genres in Egenfeldt-Nielsen et al.’s Understanding Video Games I hesitate to say if the game truly fits into any of those genres and like many games, CTA is one that falls into a multiple of their categories, namely strategy and process-oriented. The basic description of the game is as follows, you have characters run across the screen and battle monsters with every 50 floors having your characters battle a boss with the 100-increment bosses being immune to all elements except 1 (there are 5 elements: water, grass, fire, light, dark). Your characters may be strengthened temporarily using gold, generated over time through collectible shops, and by “ascending”. When a personal max stage is reached, usually by a 100-increment boss that your characters are not capable of killing, the player may then choose to “ascend” this ascension brings the characters back to level 1 and gives the player “prisms” which are a resource that can permanently strengthen a character (gold levels and shops are reset every ascension). Through this simple method of set, leave, reset, and strengthen, your characters are ever going stronger with the latest cap for stages being 6000. This simple process of having stronger characters is then integrated into the multiplayer aspect of the game, guild raids and a player versus player arena are the main forms of multiplayer interaction. Context wise, it is important to realize that this is a game of patience, getting stronger does not happen overnight and it is through many days and nights of logging in a little at a time that leads to you accomplishing this games end goal.

Objective-wise, the main goal of the game is to simply get stronger, there’s nothing particularly note-worthy about reaching stage 6000, and whether it is a victory in the arena or in the success in guild raids all the rewards and simply extra things to make your characters more and more strong. Thus, most objectives are self-oriented: getting your characters strong enough to reach the highest tier in the arena or reach the top rankings in the world in terms of strength, to name a few. The actions and instructions involved are as previously stated, collecting gold to buy more shops, to get more gold to add more levels to your characters, when said characters reach their personal max, ascend, permanently strengthen, then rinse and repeat. Hidden rules that can be discovered through playing the game are things such as the learning how to get to certain screens from the main screen, they never exactly explain the paths to you, but by playing, interacting with, and exploring the interface you discover which screens can only be accessed from which menus. Other hidden rules include that some characters are stronger than others, though never explicitly stated there are grades for characters from common to rare to epic and though level running and raiding aspects of these characters are all similar, you quickly find that epic heroes hold a strong advantage in the pvp arena scene. Characters can also not simply be used because they are liked, characters must first be collected (randomly from chests), and then strengthened to become useful. And then finally, though the game has amazingly reduced the amount of pay-to-win aspects of the game, it is still clear that the top % of players have either gotten incredibly lucky in the games in-game lottery or they have spent money to buy “flooz” which is the special currency to buy non-game breaking boosts. Flooz can be acquired rather quickly without paying by watching adds or doing well in the raids, or by simply logging in every day and playing, but to those who do not wish to constantly watch 30 second ads or dedicate the time necessary to doing well in the raids the reality of the matter is still that cash is king. Flooz has allowed paying players to reach floors faster, to get stronger faster, and then through the usual game-vicious cycle, dominate the established systems gaining them enhanced rewards that proceed to snowball their success. This be I, a long-time player who has never spent money on the game average at 700,000 in power, whereas my guild leader who joined shortly before me and is in-game famous for winning two large flooz lotteries, has a power level of about 1.6 million, though they themselves are part of the top 1% and are rather rare.

During the time of play, the player may choose when to ascend, which characters to use, when to raid, and other things. In their head, a complex or non-complex plan of min-maxing benefits is created. To use a speed boost, to wait for that last shop to reach a higher personal best, the player may not choose to not progress, to not get stronger, but they are in control of how and which characters may enjoy that process of becoming stronger. The player may choose to ascend at stage 60 or stage 6000, the player can choose to boost certain aspects of characters such as raid energy renewal, offline stage-clear-speed, the player can choose their line up for stage running, for raiding, for pvp. However, no matter the action is taken the main result is still the same, your characters get stronger, they go a little bit farther, and in the end, you progress. Granted, some goals like becoming number 1 in the world or reaching stage 6000 may not come true immediately or even if we are discussing the former, but for the latter, it is only a matter of time. Getting stronger is the name of the game and if the player logs in to ascend, then that objection will have been flawlessly accomplished. Meaning is created in that every action is directly related to the end goal, participating in PVP is simply a means to get stronger, raiding bosses is yet another, and so is the base game of running levels. Every action, every character is chosen, is implemented instantaneously and even if it is a countdown for a cool down, every second is spent to progressing, to shooting towards that main goal. The game has immense playability because there is never really an end, it is progress for the sake of progress, and though a game without an ending may lack a meaning in that sense, its value is determined in the uplifting way in which the game tirelessly struggles after the idea of self-improvement.

(Krom) Analysis of a Game: Overwatch | by Muru

Overwatch is an online first person shooting game (FPS game) combined with Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game (MOBA game) mechanics released by Blizzard Entertainment Company. In the game there are two teams against each other and each team has six players. There are over twenty characters (or “heroes” as Overwatch defines) in the game for the player to choose in the beginning of the each round or switch during the game, and every hero has unique skill and position and background story. The heroes are classified into offense, defense, tank and supporter. There are several game modes in the Overwatch, like vying for the control of the point in the map until the capture percentage reaches 100%. Overwatch won the Game of The Year in TGA 2016, and the Best Esports in TGA 2017.

There is a Chinese style map called Li Jiang Tower in the Overwatch, where three astronaut statues stand. One of the statues modeled on a Chinese student Hongyu. He died one day before Overwatch open service because he trying to stop the thief. His last post on Weibo is that he wanted to play Overwatch. Blizzard modeled the statues on Hongyu and wrote the words “Heroes never die” behind the statue, with the white wreath on it. The spirit of Hongyu corresponds to the slogan of Overwatch very well: “The World Needs Heroes!” In the background story of Overwatch, the conflict between human beings and AI is the biggest problem. The themes of anti-war, equality, exploration are throughout the game. The fifth animated short film of Overwatch “The Last Bastion” described a machine used for killing human beings finally returned to nature and peace. The heroes are fighting for their countries and positions (though there are some bad guys as characters). Besides, the heroes not only fight for the world, but also fight for the groups they represent. Blizzard Company has tried their best to balance the different culture, gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality, body, etc. For example, one female character named Zhou Meiling is a Chinese Climatologist working in Antarctica, who is a pretty and slightly fat woman. Blizzard Company created this character to phrase the achievement that Chinese Climatologists have made in Antarctica. In the “The Video Game Theory Reader 2” written by Bernard Perron and Mark J.P. Wolf, the authors suggest that the elements of the game should “support the philosophy of the game” and present “philosophy thinking” (34). The heroes, maps and many other elements in the Overwatch keep spreading positive energy, as well as having attract a lot of players who hadn’t play first shooting game before. The rate of female players is 16%, which is the highest among all the FPS games.

The attractions for the newcomers of FPS game are not only the diverse characters and stories, but also the friendly game mechanics. Unlike in other MOBA game like League of Legends, the players can check their teammates’ score of damage and healing, the players in Overwatch can only check the individual scores. The game protects the self-respect of the players and thus the new hands are more encouraged to play the game or try to play the heroes they are unfamiliar with. Besides, after the rounds are finished, the game will play the short video of the best performance of certain player in the game. And then several players who perform well in the game will be listed on the screen and other players can give “like” to them. The players are chosen not merely according to their damage, but will also according how well they support, heal or protect their teammates. After the game, the player can check their highlight playing time during the rounds in the “Highlight Time” function in the main menu. This encouragement mechanics directly has a very discernible result. It makes the DPS players (who mainly produce damage to the enemies) more confident, as well as motivates the supporters and tanks and other roles who did not stand out as DPS player. As “Meaningful Play” written by Salen and Zimmerman says that “meaningful play emerges from the interaction between players and the system of the game”, the interaction between the players and Overwatch has generated positive feedback to the players, thus creating a sense of satisfaction, making the players consider Overwatch as meaningful.Another reason for the popularity among fps new hands is that there are many heroes whose position and skills do not require good shooting skills very much. For example, one of the supporters, Mercy, whose model is beautiful and elegant, her skill is described as “need not look at the ally to maintain the tether” and can heal or add teammate’s damage through the tether from Overwatch website. This character is greatly welcomed by female players, especially those who are not good at shooting.

One of the significant features of the game mechanics of Overwatch is that it requires high cooperation among the six players in one team. Firstly, the map is in 3D and does not the small global map in the right bottom corner as other games and the vision of one player is very limited, therefore the player need his/her teammate to communicate other information. Second, the pace of each round is very fast and fierce. So if one player’s ability is much weaker than the average or does very little work, he/she will obviously drag down the whole team. Third, different categories of heroes have their own limits, which can be fatal to each player. Especially the supporters, their weapons are difficult to use and they have low damage and less ability to survive and are more “delicate” than other sorts of heroes. What’s worse, they are always the priority targets of their enemies. Therefore they need the protection from their teammates very much. In addition, the Meta (the collocation of six heroes in one team) keeps changing with the versions. Some Meta are stronger and some Meta are the bane of other Meta. So the players need to choose the heroes that match their teammates’ heroes, or when they find their enemies’ Meta is stronger than theirs, they need to go back to change the Meta. However, the cooperation has recently become one of the most serious problems in Overwatch game. Because DPS players only care about their feelings and often don’t want to stop killing enemies and turn back to protect their supporter teammates. Besides, many teammates just play individually and don’t help other teammates to kill enemies together. In addition, there are many players who insist on playing the same hero through that round or even in every round. This kind of players cannot cooperate with their teammates and Meta. The difficulty in cooperation reduce the playing experience greatly. Because of the significance of cooperation, it is harder for the player to carry the game. Therefore, even though he/she pays a lot of efforts and does a lot of work in the whole game, he/she still loses the game because of others’ faults. And for the players who play the role like supporters, the ignorance of their DPS teammates and tank teammates will make them angry and sad. In fact, many people no longer play Overwatch exactly because they have met too much bad teammates.

All in all, Overwatch is an innovative and fun game. Though its game mechanics have some crucial shortcoming, but Blizzard Company is trying to overcome them and develop the game. Hope it can get better and better!

Game Analysis: This War of Mine (Krom)

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This War of Mine is a real-time strategic/ decision-making game. The game was inspired by Sarajevo during the war of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The objective of the player is to survive the war with limited resources and extreme climate. The game ends when the war is over or all player-controlled characters died. All the resources such as food, water, and other materials are shared by both player and none player-controlled characters. Therefore, the main twist in this game is the survival between the player and the NPCs. To what extent will hunger and fear trigger the moral trigger and drive one to become a brutal person? More importantly, will your conscience allow you to stand with all that you have done? To me, these are the important the question that this game pointed out to us

At the beginning of each play, there will be a group of characters (usually 3-4) for the player to start with. There will also be some half NPCs that will ask the player for shelter during the play. Last but not the least, the pure NPCs. Some of them are just ordinary people that are trying to survive just like the player, some of them are mobs and soldiers trying to guard their own property and not willing to share no matter what happens. The resources in this game commonly appear as water, foods, woods, spare parts and materials that player can use to make tools. When first playing this game, there will be a tutorial level/day to show the player what is available to the player to collect and what are the needs to satisfy (hunger, thirsty, emotion). After that, the decisions are all up to the player.

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Each character will have their own moral ethics. For example, some characters are more likely to feel sad about stealing from the NPCs or the death of their fellows. If the player doesn’t care about the ethical needs of the characters, they will commit suicide sooner or later. Take food as an example, the player can choose to scavenge cans in the ruins or build up traps and plant their own vegetables instead of stealing from the NPCs. As a result, the NPCs will live, and the characters won’t feel bad for anything. For some player, of course, they want to be nice from the start till the end. However, the decision becomes extra hard when there are fewer and fewer food and other recourses available. The number of the canned food is fixed for each map. Once the player consumed all of that, they need to look for more ways to make more food. As it is mentioned above, setting up traps to capture animals and cook it is a good approach. However, the player needs to build up a workstation and upgrade it before able to make traps. This requires far more materials and woods that the player can gather within the first few days. Therefore, the only choice for the player in the starting stage is to either to steal or starve. Followed are some classic action-outcome relationships that will occur in this game.

A. The player chose not to steal and try to become self-sufficient at the very begging of the game. They will devote all resources to setting up the workstation and making traps.

B. The player tries to steal food from tough people that are likely to survive without the food taken by the player. The downside of this decision is the tough people are well armed. Confrontation with them will result in injury.

C. The player tries to steal food from mild people that are not so likely to survive with those foods. The mild NPCs will beg the player not to be brutal on them. They will not harm the player.

If the player chose A. Their character will starve for a few days. This will lead to hunger and disease, which raise the need for medical supplies. Without the good luck, the player is not likely to make it until getting self-sufficient on food and water. If the player chose B on the long term, the characters will not starve but will get hurt. This needs bandages and medicines, which are also highly precious resources during the war. If the wounds are not treated properly, it will lead to the death of the character, which will result in depression of other fellows in the shelter as well. When it comes to C, the hunger problem is solved as well. However, this will lead to the death of the NPCs. When the player revisits the small house that they took food from after a few days, they will find out the old couple that begged you not to take their food are dead already. The characters will feel sick of their own acts and begin to hate themselves. They will become very low-spirited and are not willing to struggle to survive anymore.

We can see that it is always going to be very hard to survive through the war in this game, not to mention when winter comes, the water froze, and the temperature drops low, all your hope is a small radio that’s broadcasting the news of the day, wishing the war ends tomorrow. Not all of us get to experience such a hard life. This game makes people realize how fragile human is. The contrast between the intense game pace and the real-life shows the preciousness of our ordinary daily life. For me, the most important thing is that this game force player to think under what condition will we be willing to give up our moral ethics. This doesn’t only limit to the wartime, but other like students trying to get grade points by cheating, or bystanders when seeing other people in need.

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Analysis of a game: Rodeo Stampede | Harrison (Krom)

When I was wondering which game to analyze for this assignment, I spent a lot of time considering until I suddenly realized that I had been playing a single mobile game since January. Now I settle myself down without hesitation because of it: Rodeo Stampede. The game was released by Featherweight Games Pty limited in June 2016, also the 2016 IndiePlus winner.

Once saddle up and get ready to wrassle with the stampede critters this side of the savannah. Lions and Tigers and Bears are no match for this rodeo star. Armed with a lasso and a ten gallon hat, swing from the backs of stampeding buffalo, elephants, ostrich and more. Hold tight atop these bucking beasts and you might just win their hearts. When the stampede is over, the zoo begins. Players can fill enclosures with their four-footed friends and let their patrons gaze in wonder. This is one wild ride that nobody will want to miss.

The instructions are rather direct and clear: the tutorial has only one sentence, that “press the screen to ride on one animal and release to jump to another.” As this basic rule is immediately learnt, players can then start to explore the animal world by choosing one animal to ride and running as far as possible. The initial option for players is bull, and the first map would be savannah. When players spot a new specie and jump onto one individual, they will need to maintain stable on that animal for couple of seconds so as to befriend it. The running is not easy though. There are plenty of trees and rocks in the way, whereas players will also have the risk of colliding with other animals, or even be eaten by some species. Meanwhile, the game sets the stage of rage, in which various animals will have different performances but similarly become hard to operate, to force players to switch onto another animal. For instance, elephants will throw the character a long distance away, zebras will hop randomly, and hippos will even sit on the character, causing his death. Even one specie of animal would have ten different specific kinds, and running farther means a greater chance to catch precious ones. Besides, players need to earn coins by completing diverse tasks. The coins can be used in two ways: players can upgrade animals’ skills to make the game more sustainable with them; and coins are also needed to unlock a new map.

Yet the game does not have a particular objective. Players can either work on the longest distance they can reach in one single round, or try to befriend and catch more animals as possible, or accomplish challenging tasks, or breed baby animals and run the zoo well. Though the game is mainly operated by one-touch and has vague objectives, it gives a strong sense of attraction to players with its dealing on details. Different maps obtain totally different scenes and characteristics, and the wide range of animals vary from each other in their traits and skills. The game also provides special tasks for catching the boss animal, and sets one particular extinct animal everyday.

As it is said “Game is the finger, play is the moon”, an interesting aspect of Rodeo Stampede I find out or I would further argue is that Rodeo Stampede is a finger which is closer to the moon compared to other games I have played before. The multiple layers of the objectives provide players with several approaches to reach the level of meaningful play. When the range of objectives spreads, the process of each outcome reflecting upon players’senses becomes faster and more direct. According to the reading “Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals” by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, a meaningful play “emerges from the interaction between players and the system of the game, as well as the context in which the game is played.” It stresses the significance of effective outcomes when a player makes choices or take actions. Since the first quote already create an atmosphere of ancient Chinese philosophy, I would quote another one: “In the world of Kongfu, speed rules.” As the outcome of any action in Rodeo Stampede goes back to the player at a higher speed, it is much easier for the players to find the meaning.

Within the frame of Zimmerman’s work, he also provides two ways of determining a meaningful play, one descriptive and one evaluative. The descriptive way deals with what action players take and what the system responds to the player. In Rodeo Stampede, the meaningful play emerges from the one-touch interaction and strategic choice of the animal to ride on. Furthermore, the constant stampeding, jumping and lassoing experience create the atmosphere of wild and crazy. Based on Zimmerman’s theory, the atmosphere from a macro perspective is key to achieve meaningful play. Since the player can actually feel immersed in the setting of this parkour savannah. The evaluative way focuses on whether the relationship between actions and outcomes in a game are discernible and integrated into the larger context of the game. In a short term, as the player hops every time to lasso a new animal, everything responds to the player really fast : the direction of jumping upon releasing, the speed of it and the size of the lasso. The corresponding result would immediately appear on the screen, either get to a new animal or fall down to the ground. If the player ride on a new animal, it would trigger the befriending process which requires the player to ride on that animal under any circumstances for a certain amount of time. After the player succeeds in befriending the animal, the game pauses and he can choose an angle to take a screenshot. From another perspective, every immediate choice of the animal and the strategy of the player together affect how far the player can go. In a long term, the final result and how many objectives could be satisfied in one round depends on each move of the player. There also appears wiki for the animal species and techniques for befriend them which I think is the best presentation of how are actions and outcomes integrated over time.

(Krom) Analysis of A Game: Dream Daddy

Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator (DDADDS) is a visual novel and dating simulator video game released in July 2017. In the game, the player is a single father to a girl about to graduate from high school. The family moves to a new neighborhood which is home to several other single dads. The objective of the game is to pursue a romance with one of the other dads while also being a supportive father to your child.

As a dating simulator, the game is a representation of the experience of dating. To that end, the main procedure of the game is to go on dates with your romantic interest. At some point during each day in the game, the player is given the option to choose which of the seven potential partners they would like to go on a date with. One important rule in DDADDS is that the player may go on up to three dates with any given dad. If the player goes on their third date with the same dad, that dad is locked in as their romantic interest for that playthrough. The game makes this discernable to the player in two ways. First of all, on the screen where the player chooses who to go on a date with, each character has three hearts next to their picture. The hearts begin grayed out, and after the player goes on a date with that character, the heart is then shown in red. Secondly, when a player selects the option to go on a third date, the game displays a prompt asking the player “Are you sure this is your Dream Daddy?” with the options “Sure” and “I can’t commit”. The player can then make an informed decision on whether or not to make that choice, without locking themselves into a specific love interest by accident without realizing. However, going on dates does not always feel meaningful because they are not well integrated. The player can go on up to two dates with every single romantic option, but who you date and how many times has little to no impact on your relationship with the other characters.

As a visual novel, the gameplay can feel a bit limited. For most of the game, the player is reading dialogue boxes and clicking the mouse or keyboard to progress the text. At some points, the player is given a choice of options to respond to the situation or dialogue with. Some of these choices affect the outcome of the game, but not all of the choices can be considered meaningful. For example, at the beginning of the game, your daughter is trying to wake you up and you can either play dead, mumble ‘5 more minutes’, or just get up. No matter which option you choose, the player character will eventually get out of bed. On the other hand, some choices do have a discernible impact. While on a date, if you say something that a date finds favorable, an animation with flowing hearts will play around them, but if you say something they really dislike, dark coal-like dots will spray out. At the end of each date, the player is shown a letter grade for how well the date went, integrating the choices made throughout the date into the final result. Although the game has programmed rules to calculate the grade based on the choices made, the exact weight of each choice is not known to the player. Exactly how poorly or how well the player must do to get a bad or happy ending with their chosen love interest is also unknown. In my playthrough, I received S, B, and A grades on my dates, so it seemed reasonable that I received the happy ending.

Although the gameplay of Dream Daddy isn’t always great at creating meaning, the game’s context is extremely important when evaluating it as a meaningful experience. The first aspect to consider is the cultural context in which the game was released. Recently, the issue of diverse representation in media has started being taken much more seriously, by both creators and consumers. DDADDS is impressive in the diversity that it showcases. Not only is there the obvious factor that all of the characters are gay or bi, but the characters also come from several different ethnicities and feature various body types. Additionally, because of the personal nature of representation, the profile of the player is also an important context. Seeing yourself represented within the game can be very meaningful. To further this, being able to customize your character in a way that reflects you enables the play to be more expressive.

Analysis of a Game: Kevin Xu (Krom)

Infinitode is a tower defense game developed by Vadym Sakhno and available both on the Google Play Store and on Apple’s app store. The basic objective of the game is similar to that of almost all its cousins in the genre: to keep waves of enemies travelling along a given path from reaching your base. What sets Infinitode different from the rest, however, is its customizability in map design and the process of upgrades for your defensive towers. Rather than constraining the player to a couple preset maps, there is an option to create your own maps from tiles you win after each playthrough of the original maps. These tiles can either be ‘paths’ for the enemies to follow or ‘slots’ for your towers, often containing mini-upgrades in themselves, whether it adds damage, range, fire-rate, or some special ability-type effect to the tower placed on it. The waves of enemies can differ in numbers and type, some with specific resistances to explosions or bullets and some with much higher mobility but less defense. In order to counter all possible types, it is important to have a balance between the different tower types as well and a good understanding of when to place some of the more advanced types, as their higher costs in the early rounds may prevent you from having the needed manpower to clear waves. There is a heavy incentive to take things slower and to actively adjust your tower types throughout the game to cater towards which types of enemies are showing up because the more waves you endure the exponentially more rewards you get in cash and random prizes. The cash is used to buy new tower types and create global upgrades for your towers in future playthroughs. Although not necessarily the main objective of the gameplay itself, wave high scores are also recorded in the community, and they serve as incentive to seasoned players who already own all global upgrades to compete to see who designs better maps and can organize their towers more effectively.

Although there is not much context to the game itself as it is designed with basic shapes and solid colors, like any strategy game, it helps keep the player open to the idea of resistances and weaknesses. I would not say that this creates a life-changing experience in a person, allowing them to suddenly realize how to take advantage of situations in their life or to tackle their own weaknesses, but at least it can help those who play apply this meaning to how they play many other games by giving leeway to having situational awareness. Beyond the game itself, the humble popularity of the game has created a great community of players on reddit. Many of the tips and tricks I learned was from others on the subreddit, and I believe the reason why seasoned players are so willing to share their secrets is because while they compete for the highest score, nobody wants to have no competition at all. This truly gives meaning to me because it suddenly allows a single player game to become both a cooperative and competitive game.