Monday, March 29, 2010

Flights of Fantasy

While we're still stumbling around and trying to find something to write about, here's some more ideas for the 2nd essay. For the fantasy inclined fan, here's some works that you could turn into video games.

Phantasmagorical and Strange Happenings

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hurtling through the Galaxy

Like the last post, this one is going to about looking for ideas for the essay topic: Why this work has not been converted into a videogame before and discuss.

[4:50 pm I've just realised some of these ideas are not actual "works", they are more concepts so you'll either need to find a source material(text/video) based around these concepts. I'll be changing some of these so they are based off actual texts or films.]

TV, Science Fiction and Oddballs:

  • MacGuyver:
    I can't see why a game that uses MacGyverisms to solve problems, escape cells and kills bad guys hasn't been made. It could just be the mullet.

  • The A-Team:
    Explosions, guns, escapes and Mr T.

  • Mythbusters:
    Teaching kids or grownups, the hows and whys of the universe. You could make it into a learning game, give your player a problem, give them free run of some labs and see if they can busts some myths. Alternatively you could turn in into a trivia game to see how much stuff you know.

  • The Action Hero's Handbook

  • Phillip K Dick

  • Snow Crash:
    Hacker/Sword Fighter/Secret Agent turned pizza delivery guy who's broke has discovers plot to destroy humanity. The story world features the Metaverse, a fictional virtual reality that was spawned from the Internet. It's been described as an MMO.

  • Comic book heroes:
    Flash Gordon, Tom Strong or find a hero like Hungry Beast did.

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey:
    If you were trapped in space with HAL, what would you do?
    Alternatively you could look at Moon. (Beware, die hard fans may stop you from killing the movies)

  • Brainship series

  • Culture Jamming:
    - Steal This Book
    - Flash Mobs (Improv Everywhere)
    - Anonymous
    - The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
    - Scientology(insert appropriate level of sarcasm here).

  • Alternate Sports *Concepts:
    - Roller Derby(Whip It)
    - Unicycle Hockey or Boxer Hockey
    - BASEketball
    - Dodgeball (links to international rule book in pdf form) or the movie
    - Speed Dating (I jest)

  • Advergame *Concepts:
    If you don't mind capitalising on a current product or you like seeing where extreme commercialisation is headed, why not try making a game to help advertise a product or company?
    - Kids MMO where weapons use brand name candy as ammo. Sour Warhead anyone?
    - This, obviously copyright and the corporation may scare you off buy you know it would awesome if it where made.

  • Internet Social Phenomena *Concepts:
    Why not see what you can come up with based around stuff like: Twitter, Facebook or even YouTube. Maybe you could use these sites as part of the plot or game mechanic.
    - A Private Investigator searching for missing people via Facebook
    - The FBI trailing drug consignments via coded Twitter messages
    - A wannabe trying to become popular via YouTube

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fragging the Classics

The goal for assignment 2: "this work has not been converted into a videogame before: discuss".

That is a big rabbit hole to go down into, there are a lot of works that you can choose from and a lot of works you should not look at. Stuck for an idea, join the queue, but here's some places you can check out:

Project Gutenberg: One of the best places to get public domain(no copyright) works by authors who've long been in the grave.

Wikipedia: An entertaining place where you can check if a work has been made into a film or video game. Alternatively you could use it to find something that hasn't been done before, like Canning or Mensa.

'Classic' works to turn into games:
I've stuck in some example works that may have used the original as an inspiration or are something in a similar vein. I'm not going to go into what classic is, this is just something to generate ideas.

  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer:
    Stories within a story of a group of pilgrims (it's the 14th century) travelling from Southwark to Canterbury Cathedral. They tell each other stories to pass the time and provides a framework for Chaucer to use all sorts of literary devices like self insertion, parables and a set of characters who represent a cross section of society. It's really tempting to do a American McGee's Grimm on it..

  • Genji Monogatari by Murasaki Shikibu:
    Early 11th century Japan's 'Casanova', The Tale of Genji tracks the (romantic) life and times of the illegitimate prince Genji. There are a few ways to go about it, but try to avoid making a erotic visual novel/game, that's the easy way out.)

  • The works of Alexandre Dumas, père:
    Best known for works of high adventure such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, have a lot elements that could make them into video games. Revenge, politics and swords are awesome. Gankutsuou is Monte Cristo in space. [I've been told a lot of Dumas' books have been made into games so you may have to tread carefully.]

  • The Bard, William Shakespeare:
    Zounds, these works have gallons of inspiration in them. Hamlet and The Tempest have already been video games but you could try King Lear (lots of dying) or A Midsummer Night's Dream (happy endings). (I know some of these link to wiki but as if you're going to read the whole play at this stage)

  • Jane Austen:
    No.. I hear you cry? Well how about mixing it up some? How about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters? Guts, gore and killing strange monsters in Regency England, why hasn't this been made before?

  • Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky:
    Why not, young man finds an enchanted lady who's cursed and decides to free her. There's an evil magician and some drama, sure it's a ballet but you could rewrite it to fit in a video game. LucasArts did with Loom.

  • Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelun) by Wilhelm Richard Wagner:
    You're probably more familiar with What's Opera, Doc? (Kill the Wabbit) The Ring saga could be made into a game, who doesn't love Norse gods and viking helmets? Odin Sphere is almost like the opera but without the big ladies breaking glasses or ears.

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy:
    Set during the Reign of Terror (start of the French Revolution), the series follows the exploits of Sir Percy Blakeney, a man with a secret identity. When he's not being a fop(the 17th C 'man of fashion'), he's off saving innocent French nobles from getting the chop. How easy would it be to convert it into a action/adventure with swashbuckling rescue missions?

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes:
    Maybe you can actually create a video game out of the story of an old man obsessed with chivalry who decides that he will become a knight. Don Quixote is beset by problems, he's clearly delusional, people make fun of him and his family are trying to stop him from acting so crazy. What's a man to do when giants (windmills) are all over La Mancha? See if you have better luck than Terry Gilliam in adapting this work.

  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain:
    A smart talking man with a knowledge of firearms and machinery is transported to the year 528 after being hit on the head. He eventually realises that his 19th C knowledge makes him the smartest man on Earth(Middle Aged version). Hijinks ensure. You could turn this into a several different games, think action/adventure, puzzle or click and point.

  • The Ramayana:
    An ancient Sanskrit epic about the prince Rama(an avatar of Vishnu) and his wife Sita who is kidnapped by Ravana the demon King. Don't go "God of War" or "Dante's Inferno" on this despite the similarities. A comic book adaptation is being made into a MMO.



Still stuck?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Level Up - Working in a Story

This week you should consider the different theories presented in the lecture and do two things: one, which one do you most agree with? and two: give us a game which you feel EPITOMISES your favoured theory and why?

Game Theories:
- Games are active
- Games as work
- Games as learning
- Games as social interaction
- Games as a study of rules or Games bound by a system of rules
- Games without goals (it's not a game with a goal, so they say)
- Games as spaces or Games as story worlds
- Games as an "Unholy" alliance of designer and player
- Games as art (a bonus one from my head)

Yes, I'm sure I've missed the point but this is what I have gotten out of the lecture so it's going to be different to whatever is in your head. The hard part of picking one of these theories is finding one that I'd agree with 100%. Games are complex constructions that have a whole lot of elements that I find difficult to pigeon hole as one 'thing'.

Nearly all games fit within these theories it depends on what aspects you decide to concentrate on. I'd could go on all day about it but that would be digressing into a giant pile of blah blah. I'm going to concentrate on "Games as story worlds" and "Games as work".

I like games that have worlds that are fully (or try to be) immersive and are about having to work within the confines of the story. A lot of the time this fails, the story is bad and the game mechanics are boring or don't work. A game that has a story world has to work hard to get the player to stay in the world for a long time.

Let's take Japanese RPG's for example. J-RPGS are all games that run on 2 theories, games as a story world and games as work. The story and world is there to suck you in, the work is used to stop it from being one giant visual novel. The kind of work you do is leveling up (grinding).

Why level up:
- To stop getting killed
- To get powerups/gain abilities
- Collect items (you collect items for many reasons)
- OCD (you're compelled to get as much stuff as possible)
- Bragging rights (the internet is a strange place where bragging on how little you level up will earn you 'cred')

Case Study:

Let's look at an example of how the story world and working(level) work together.
The JRPG works on having a story and characters that make the player/audience want to progress the story or spend time with the character. The get further in the story, you more you need to level up.

Persona 3:
A dungeon with 250 levels, characters, social relationships and your personality that require leveling up? Welcome to Persona 3, a J-RPG that puts you in the life of a Japanese teenager who has to deal with demons, the apocalypse, soul searching and exams.

Levelling up requires you to fight monsters that appear in the dungeon, standard fair. What makes this different is that if you need to get to certain floors of the dungeon by certain days. That's right, it's got a calender cycle. Okay, strange but possible until you find out that your party members are digital humans; work them too hard and they get tired and catch colds. Your main character has these weaknesses too, work him too hard and he won't be able to fight.



There are some incentives for levelling up, you get access to new summons, magic powers, money and the thrill of not dying in the randomly generated dungeon. Don't forget, you're saving the world. How's that for extra curricular activity?

The story of Persona 3 does make the fighting and levelling bearable, sometimes enjoyable. You're going to save the world, making sure you don't die while doing it is a powerful incentive. Another incentive is Hard Mode, you die and there aren't no magic items to bring you back to life.

The game has moments that do make you feel a part of the world. Team members will tell you enthusiastically when they level up or when they land a critical hit. Exclamation marks pop up when you character answers a question correctly, is charming or stands up for himself.



The social relationship leveling up? Strangely investing time in NPCs does reap some benefits, being best buds or having a relationship will net you more powerful summons. Having friends also helps you save the world from doom. You get bonus content as you get closer to your friends, finding out why a monk hangs out at a night club is one of the highlights. JRPG's are notorious for making character interaction a must, I don't know if these skills will carry over to your real life.

Unlike real life, if you level up aspects of your personality, you can meet new people or impress the ones you know. Somehow it's worked into the story; a creepy man from a dimension that only you can access tells you to make friends as part of your contract that you've signed with some strange ghostly kid... It makes sense in the world of Persona but no where else.





The game world does have a lot of extra things to do but they are geared towards levelling either relationships or your own stats. Singing karaoke makes you more courageous.. The main character is pretty bland, giving you lots of opportunity to give him a personality. The game's also great at getting people to micromanage the character's life. Not that's a bad thing when you get to the stage of juggling 3 girlfriends..

It's best to say that this particular story is work, you work to save the world and better yourself. Working to save the world involves levelling up and trying not to die. Well, at least you've spent over 50 hours getting through a really intense story, surely that's worth it?

Pretty sure I've failed getting any form of a message across. Better luck next time.

The Wizard of Oz - Remixed

This week's prototyping exercise was to take L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz and turn it into a game. The catch is that the game must be based on 1 of 5 game theories:

- Play as Darwinian influence (survival of the fittest)
- Play as active performance (player works to create work via action)
- Play as work (where the game exists because the player plays it)
- Play as (learning) fun ("teach" the player a satisfying pattern)
- Play as social imperative (playing provides social opportunities)

Ideas generated by: Max, Natalie, Jasmine and I.

The Wizard of Oz as Survival of the Fittest:
Feel free to add dystopian future to any of these.

- Wizard of Oz as Survivor (TV show)
- Battle Royale: Oz
- Wizard of Oz fighting game
- MMO (offers survival but also social opportunities, why kill when you can befriend?)
- RTS (pick a faction of Oz and try to assimilate as many hosts to bred a batch of super solders)

Return to Oz: Teaching the player:
Genre: Action/Adventure with puzzle elements (up for discussion)
Play: Non linear

Inspired by the movie Return to Oz and The Wizard of Oz series, the game has the player moving between the real world and memories set in the land of Oz.

The real world is filled with problems but the solutions to these problems can be found in Oz. The player is given a portal to be transported to a memory bank where they can choose which memory to play.

The game is comprised of small events that culminate into a larger goal, the puzzles that the player solves help fix the real world and progress the game.

Potential Puzzles:
- Freeing cursed characters from the Nome King's spell
- Finding treasure in Mombi the Witch's Hall of Heads

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hairstyln'

Somehow I'm an(the?!) example on how to do shit that involves written assignments. If you're looking on how to write an essay, you're looking in the wrong place. Here's some stuff that will help you to make it look like you did research.

Swinburne University: Harvard Style Guide: The most useful one around, it's pretty wordy but does have guidelines for referencing Wikipedia, Youtube, blogs and Twitter.

Harvard - UQ style!: If it's good enough for them, then it's good enough for you. Download UQ's guide here.

Griffith U's Referencing Tool: Nuttin' says serious learning than a Flash applet. No Flash - use the text version. Or pdf version.

Don't forget:
Bibliographies go on a new page. They are also A - Z like a phone book.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Episode III - Third time's not so charming

Getting a little closer but the conclusion stinks as usual. Some of the stuff is the same, but I have tried to make it flow better and get some of those ideas tighter. Hopefully the final version is within sight.

Star Wars has had a pervasive impact on the modern human psyche and has left its mark on directors, fans and video game designers. It is responsible for several changes in popular culture, the rise of the blockbuster, the franchise movie, the use of computer generated special effects and for leaving an indelible mark on popular lexicon. (Emerson n.d; Jenkins 2005) Countless references from the series have been used in commercials, video games, books and other mediums.

For those born after the inception of Star Wars, they have accepted it as a site of shared cultural knowledge. (Booker 1997) Peter Krämer (2001) cites during a class, he asked students the role of Star Wars had in their lives and was surprised by the response. They recounted that as children; they inhabited a 'Star Wars universe' and still felt that was still applied even as adults. "... the saga's characters, stories and catch phrases had been a primary reference point for their peer group and also within their families." (Kramer 2001)

Star Wars has a video game industry has spawned over 100 video and computer commodities. Much of the series continuing popularity and perpetuation of Star Wars over our society is due to the production of video games. (ref) Video games have offered a way for Star Wars to continue their dominance of popular culture; this spread also has had an effect on video games as a source of inspiration, reference and parody.

The biggest game in the industry that Star Wars has inspired is Tomohiro Nishikado's Space Invaders. Nishikado recalls that he was inspired by news of the American movie that was coming to Japan. He had felt that setting the game in space and having aliens as opponents would be less immoral than shooting human enemies. "Human movement would have been easier, but I felt it would be immoral to shoot humans, even if they were bad guys." (Nishikado cited in The Creation of Space Invaders 2005)

Space Invaders is considered to one of the seminal arcade games which launched an industry. The influence on the games industry can still be felt today. It pushed video games culture into mainstream consciousness; it created the genre of games known as top-down shooters and became a historical icon of video games. (Edwards n.d)

Its conception could not have happened without Star Wars' interpretation of space as an adventure. It paved the way for space opera and aliens to be acceptable serious topics for movies and video games. (Edwards n.d) While Star Wars is considered the quintessential space adventure movie, it has also created the archetypal video game moment.

`Star Wars' didn't create video games but it totally influenced them... The Death Star trench run in the original `Star Wars' is the archetypal video game climax: Fire a missile, hit a weak spot and everything gets destroyed. (Schneider cited in Caro 2005)

The battles set in space have been an inspiration to game designers Ted Michon and David Rolfe who in 1979 released the arcade game Star Fire. Due to licensing and publishing issues the game never bore the Star Wars brand but players have made connections between Star Fire and its muse.

David Rolfe admits that Michon wanted to create a game in the same genre as Star Wars. The graphics created for the game attracted Star Wars fans through their similarity to the original product. It has been described by some to be a digital equivalent to piloting a vehicle from the movies. (Thomasson 2006; Minter 2003) The sheer volume of fan media is overwhelming; the desire for others to relive and recreate the experiences of Star Wars and its characters is not limited to fans. (Jenkins H 2005; Caro 2003)

Star Wars and Star Fire would later lead to an unusual game inspired by an official Star Wars product.

The review in question described the Walkers as “giant mechanical camels”. “And that just got me thinking about giant camels in general,” says Minter. (The Making Of: Attack of The Mutant Camels 2009)

Drawing inspiration from a review of The Empire Strikes Back, Minter created an imaginative experience which pitted the player against shielded camels that could fire lasers. (The Making Of: Attack of The Mutant Camels 2009) With an aesthetic borrowed from the Parker Brother's game, Minter's game could be seen as a parody but also as a retelling of the original game.

It is difficult to imagine a cultural landscape without Star Wars, much of it has become ingrained into our communicated media such as films, books and video games. It has remained one of the most popular space operas, a prime example of man's obsession with adventure and the unknowns of space. Space Invaders and its space themed game play originate with Star Wars; this little seed of inspiration gave rise to one of icons of video game culture.

Conclusion is not finished, again. I will get around to it once I figure out just how to sum this essay up.
Following the rise of Space Invaders and Lucas' films, video games, aliens, space operas became pop culture standards. The thrill of exciting frontiers opened by digital media continues today. Scenarios, characters and lines from the films have often been referenced in different mediums and still provide stimulus for developing works.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Episode II - The Waffle starts now

Another slightly re-jigged draft of yesterday's entry, it's starting to get better. Who knows I may have something by Thursday that actually looks like an essay.

How does a space opera from the 1970's influence contemporary gaming? Yeah, yea, I know this line is getting old. I'll come up with something better.

Star Wars has had a pervasive impact on the modern human psyche and has left its mark on directors, fans and video game designers. It is responsible for several changes in popular culture, the rise of the blockbuster, the franchise movie, the use of computer generated special effects and for leaving an indelible mark on popular lexicon. (Emerson n.d; Jenkins 2005) Countless references from the series have been used in commercials, video games, books and other mediums.

The biggest game in the industry that Star Wars has inspired is Tomohiro Nishikado's Space Invaders. Nishikado recalls that he was inspired by news of the American movie that was coming to Japan. He had felt that setting the game in space and having aliens as opponents would be less immoral than shooting human enemies. "Human movement would have been easier, but I felt it would be immoral to shoot humans, even if they were bad guys." (Nishikado cited in The Creation of Space Invaders 2005)

Space Invaders is considered to one of the seminal arcade games which launched an industry. The influence on the gaming industry can still be felt today. It pushed video games culture into mainstream consciousness; it created the genre of games known as top-down shooters and became a historical icon of video games. (Edwards n.d)

Its conception could not have happened without a fairy tale sent in space known as Star Wars. Star Wars paved the way for space opera and aliens to be acceptable serious topics for movies and video games. (Edwards n.d) While Star Wars is considered the quintessential space adventure movie, it has also created the archetypal video game moment.

`Star Wars' didn't create video games but it totally influenced them... The Death Star trench run in the original `Star Wars' is the archetypal video game climax: Fire a missile, hit a weak spot and everything gets destroyed. (Schneider cited in Caro 2005)

The battles set in space have been an inspiration to game designers Ted Michon and David Rolfe who in 1979 released the arcade game Star Fire. Due to licensing and publishing issues the game never bore the Star Wars brand but players have made connections between Star Fire and its inspiration.

David Rolfe admits that Michon wanted to create a game in the same genre as Star Wars. The graphics created for the game attracted Star Wars fans through their similarity to the original product. (Thomasson 2006 ; Minter 2004)

Star Wars and Star Fire would later lead to an unusual game inspired by an official Star Wars product.

The review in question described the Walkers as “giant mechanical camels”. “And that just got me thinking about giant camels in general,” says Minter. (The Making Of: Attack of The Mutant Camels 2009)

Drawing inspiration from a review of The Empire Strikes Back, Minter created an imaginative experience which pitted the player against shielded camels that could fire lasers. With an aesthetic borrowed from the Parker Brother's game, Minter's game could be seen as a parody but also as a retelling of the original game. (The Making Of: Attack of The Mutant Camels 2009)

For those born after the inception of Star Wars have accepted it as a site of shared cultural knowledge. (Booker 1997) Peter Krämer (2001) cites during a class, he asked students the role of Star Wars had in their lives and was surprised by the response. They recounted that as children, they were inhabiting a 'Star Wars universe' and still felt that was still applied even as adults.

"... the saga's characters, stories and catch phrases had been a primary reference point for their peer group and also within their families." (Kramer 2001)

More to come so don't winge that it's not going anywhere.
23rd March Edit: No, changed part of it so this is an unfinished draft


Bibliography

Booker W 1997, 'New Hope: The Postmodern Project of Star Wars' in S Redmond(ed), Liquid Metal The Science Fiction Film Reader, Wallflower Press, London, pp. 289 - 307.

Brown J 2005, The impact of the Star Wars trilogy, viewed 10th March 2010, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/jan-june05/star_wars_5-19.html.

Caro M 2005, The power of the dark side, viewed 10th March 2010, http://www.chicagotribune.com/chi-0505080390may08,0,5154795.story?page=1.

Ebert R 1999, Great Movies: Star Wars, viewed 11th March 2010, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19990628/REVIEWS08/906280301/1023.

Edwards B n.d., Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Space Invaders Celebrating 30 Years of Shooting at Sushi, viewed 5th March 2010, http://www.1up.com/do/feature?pager.offset=1&cId=3168373.

Emerson J n.d, How Star Wars Shook the World, viewed 10th March 2010, http://movies.msn.com/movies/starwars/?GT1=7701&.

Jenkins H 2005, Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture, viewed 12th March 2010, http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/starwars.html.

Kramer P 2001, 'It's Aimed At Kids - The Kid in Everybody: George Lucas, Star Wars and Children's Entertainment', in Y Trasker(ed), Action and Adventure Cinema, Routledge, Oxen, pp. 358 - 370.

Minter J 2004, The Joy of ZX & Hex, viewed 20th March 2010, http://www.llamasoft.co.uk/lshistory4.php.

Rickey, C 2005, Debate brews about cultural impact of 'Star Wars', viewed 10th March 2010, http://media.www.the-telescope.com/media/storage/paper749/news/2005/05/09/StarWars/Debate.Brews.About.Cultural.Impact.Of.star.Wars-953413.shtml.

The Creation of Space Invaders 2005, Edge Online, viewed 12th March 2010, http://www.edge-online.com/news/the-creation-space-invaders.

The Making Of:Attack of The Mutant Camels 2009, Edge Online, viewed 14th March 2010, http://www.edge-online.com/magazine/the-making-of-attack-of-the-mutant-camels.

Thomasson M 2006, Interview with David Rolfe, viewed 13th March 2010, http://www.gooddealgames.com/interviews/int_rolfe.html.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Episode I - Rough Start

This is a pretty rough draft of my essay about Star War's impact on modern gamimg. A lot of things need to sorted like references, ideas, flow and a conclusion. More will come as I rework it.

Star Wars is responsible for several changes in popular culture, the rise of the blockbuster, the franchise movie, the use of computer generated special effects and for leaving an indelible mark on popular lexicon. (Emerson n.d ; Jenkins 2005) Countless references from the series have been used in commercials, video games, books and other mediums.

How could a space opera from the 70's influence contemporary gaming?

Star Wars has had a pervasive impact on the modern human psyche and has left its mark on directors, fans and video game designers. This essay will look at the impact Star Wars had on people as a cultural phenomena and at the video games it has inspired.

Peter Krämer (2001) cites during a class, he asked students the role of Star Wars had in their lives and was surprised by the response. He recounts that as children, many of his students felt they been inhabiting the Star Wars universe and still do as adults.

"... the saga's characters, stories and catch phrases had been a primary reference point for their peer group and also within their families." (Kramer 2001)

The appeal of Star Wars has many facets, its creator George Lucas has been cited that it is a portrayal of faith and innocence triumphing over cynicism and despair. (Levin cited in Brooker 1997) Critics have panned and praised the series approach to capture the "inner child". (Kramer 2001) Simular parallels can seen in the number of games that offer the player a similar experience.

"`Star Wars' didn't create video games but it totally influenced them... The Death Star trench run in the original `Star Wars' is the archetypal video game climax: Fire a missile, hit a weak spot and everything gets destroyed." (Schneider cited in Caro 2005)

It is moments like these that have inspired games such as Space Invaders, Star Fire, Attack of the Mutant Camels and countless others. Entering a world where Star Wars, some of these products prove that Star Wars is an inspiring force that spans a lifetime.

The 1979 arcade game Star Fire owes its creation to Star Wars. Ted Michon was inspired by the movies to create a game in this genre, he created graphics that were extremely close to the designs of Star Wars. (Thomasson 2006) Star Fire is noted for emulating the experience of flying a TIE fighter from the movies. (Minter 2003)

One of the strangest video games to claim influence from Star Wars is Jeff Minter's Attack of the Mutant Camels.

The review in question described the Walkers as “giant mechanical camels”. “And that just got me thinking about giant camels in general,” says Minter. (The Making Of: Attack of The Mutant Camels 2009)

Drawing inspiration from a review of The Empire Strikes Back, Minter created an imaginative experience which pitted the player against shielded camels that could fire lasers. With an aesthetic borrowed from the Parker Brother's game, Minter's game could be seen as a parody but also as a retelling of the original game.

The biggest game in the industry that Star Wars has inspired is Tomohiro Nishikado's Space Invaders. Nishikado recalls that he was inspired by news of the American movie that was coming to Japan. He had felt that setting the game in space and having aliens as opponents would be less immoral than shooting human enemies.(The Creation of Space Invaders 2005)

Space Invaders is considered to one of the seminal arcade games which launched an industry. The influence on the gaming industry can still be felt today. It pushed video games culture into mainstream consciousness, it created the genre of games known as top-down shooters and it's conception could not have happened without a fairy tale sent in space known as Star Wars. Star Wars paved the way for space opera and aliens to be acceptable serious topics for movies and video games.(Edwards n.d)

Video games would not be a dynamic cultural force without the influence of Star Wars whether it's the need to emulate scenes from the movies or as a jumping platform for game development. The excitement of pretending to be a Jedi Knight as a child to engaging hyper-speed as an adult gamer, these moments could only have come from a world where Star Wars exists.

From the late 70's, Star Wars has been the one cultural force that has eclipsed other trends and inducted generations of people into its fold. Few can imagine life without its presence, even the uninterested are aware of its influence over their lives. If the force with you?

Bibliography

Booker W 1997, 'New Hope: The Postmodern Project of Star Wars' in S Redmond(ed), Liquid Metal The Science Fiction Film Reader, Wallflower Press, London, pp. 289 - 307.

Brown, J 2005, The impact of the Star Wars trilogy, viewed 10th March 2010, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/jan-june05/star_wars_5-19.html.

Caro, M 2005, The power of the dark side, viewed 10th March 2010, http://www.chicagotribune.com/chi-0505080390may08,0,5154795.story?page=1.

Ebert, R 1999, Great Movies: Star Wars, viewed 11th March 2010, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19990628/REVIEWS08/906280301/1023.

Edwards B, n.d., Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Space Invaders Celebrating 30 Years of Shooting at Sushi, viewed 5th March 2010, http://www.1up.com/do/feature?pager.offset=1&cId=3168373.

Emerson, J n.d, How Star Wars Shook the World, viewed 10th March 2010, http://movies.msn.com/movies/starwars/?GT1=7701&.

Jenkins H 2005, Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture, viewed 12th March 2010, http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/starwars.html.

Kramer P 2001, 'It's Aimed At Kids - The Kid in Everybody: George Lucas, Star Wars and Children's Entertainment', in Y Trasker(ed), Action and Adventure Cinema, Routledge, Oxen, pp. 358 - 370.

Rickey, C 2005, Debate brews about cultural impact of 'Star Wars', viewed 10th March 2010, http://media.www.the-telescope.com/media/storage/paper749/news/2005/05/09/StarWars/Debate.Brews.About.Cultural.Impact.Of.star.Wars-953413.shtml.

The Creation of Space Invaders 2005, Edge Online, viewed 12th March 2010, http://www.edge-online.com/news/the-creation-space-invaders.

The Making Of:Attack of The Mutant Camels 2009, Edge Online, viewed 14th March 2010, http://www.edge-online.com/magazine/the-making-of-attack-of-the-mutant-camels.

Thomasson M 2006, Interview with David Rolfe, viewed 13th March 2010, http://www.gooddealgames.com/interviews/int_rolfe.html.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

D&D Griffith Style

This week we were asked to make a prototype of a game that is played on a map. After some thought, it came down to a D&D style game set in Griffith University.

D&D Griffith Uni
Concept by: Jasmine, Jeanny, Cassandra, Natalie and myself



Number of Players: 4 +
Dungeon Master is required to set tasks, enemies and adjudicate player fights

Goal:
Players are to start at the pub and must enter the university grounds to retrieve or deliver an item from a specific location. When they have completed this task, they must return to the pub. The first to return is the victor.

Challenges:
Players must face obstacles and enemies (teachers or other players). Players can attack each other when they are on adjacent squares or land on the same square as another. The attacker will be given the first roll.

Victory is given to the player with the most inventive attack and the highest roll. The loser will be sent back an allocated number of spaces. The DM will roll for NPCs.

Preparation:
Players will need to determine their weapon of choice however the DM will set the limits of this weapon. eg. Range, number of uses and attack.

For consideration:
- The use of cards will make battles, tasks and inventories easier to manage.
- Player vs Player combat will need to be adjusted so that opponents are more of an obstacle.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Family Trees

The mission:

Play as many of the 80s games as you can and consider:

* The evolution of the basic elements that you looked at last week

* Describe a favorite 80s work in terms of the evolving design features discussed in the lecture (Genre, World, Narrative, Graphics and Perspective)

* Find a descendant (literal / emotional) and compare

* Particularly consider how many of the core mechanics have evolved in conjunction with improved graphic capabilities – compare with some contemporary games


The last post was about the evolution of narrative and whether it is a background element or an integral part of the game. There are still many games where the story adds background flavour, you can replace the main character and other elements without disrupting the story.

Games like Super Mario or Sonic could have different characters without affecting the story line or way you play. Castlevania(1986) or Metroid(1986) could almost be the same game if the narrative did not dictate what the game world was.




Top: Castelvania (1986)
Bottom: Metroid (1986)


Both games offer similar gameplay, you must explore the environment, defeat bosses and find items or abilities to progress deeper in the environment. The fact that one is a gothic fantasy and the other set in space could be overlooked but the narrative enriches game play.

Let's take a closer look at the Castlevania and Metroid Series.

Genre:
The 1st Castlevania and Metroid games were released in 1986 and are classed as action-adventure games with platform elements. Unlike Castlevania, Metroid doesn't feature distinct levels, instead the game world is connected via doors and elevators. Castlevania would adopt this approach in 1997 instead of the linear stage it had previously used.

Both games would also feature a character with a changing arsenal of weapons. This would change how the players took on obstacles(enemies). Instead of jumping on the enemies, the player would need to think more tactically, eg. Time their attacks or movement, weapon choice etc.



Top: Castelvania: Symphony of the Night (1997)
Bottom: Metroid (1986)


World and Narrative:
The worlds and narratives of Castlevania and Metroid form a symbiotic relationship. They could work without each other but the game experience would be lacking. Both the main characters need a goal to complete but also creates an opportunity to create an expanded world.

A larger world means the player will spend more time in the game which gives rise to the many sequels or related games from the series. The story of Metroid is grown in each installment, Samus is constantly fighting against aliens that are from another planet or produced by human organisations. Space travel provides a convenient method of creating different areas and using these environments to provide enough challenges in the game to make it enjoyable or difficult.



Top: Metroid map
Bottom: Castlevania map(1986)


In Castlevania, the ever present threat of Dracula's revival fuels the narrative of the series. In later games the narrative becomes more complex as different characters fight to prevent Dracula's resurrection which is heralded by the appearance of his castle. The castle then becomes the game world in which the player explores and experiences the game.

Graphics and Perspective:

You can look up the specs of the Nintendo Entertainment System on the Internet. A pull from the internet monkey gives us this on the graphic capabilities of the Nes.


The system has an available color palette of 48 colors and 5 grays. Red, green and blue can be individually darkened at specific screen regions using carefully timed code. Up to 24 colors may be used on one scan line: a background color, four sets of three tile colors and four sets of three sprite colors. This total does not include color de-emphasis.

A total of 64 sprites may be displayed onscreen at a given time without reloading sprites mid-screen. Sprites may be either 8 pixels by 8 pixels, or 8 pixels by 16 pixels, although the choice must be made globally and it affects all sprites. Up to eight sprites may be present on one scanline, using a flag to indicate when additional sprites are to be dropped. This flag allows the software to rotate sprite priorities, increasing maximum amount of sprites, but typically causing flicker.


Obviously the 1986 Castlevania and Metroid are pretty much pixel pancakes. They're flat and don't come in many colours. Even with a limited colour palette, the games were still able to deliver a believable game world if you just squint with your mind.





The graphic and technological capabilities of the era made 2D the easiest option. We're only offered a side view of our character, any sense of perspective is flattened. The game space has only 2 layers, the moving background and everything else that the player can interact with.

Moving ahead in time and the use of 3D, the graphics and perspective change. Being able to move and see in three dimensions means that the environments should be follow realistic perspective. As stated before, a bigger narrative means a bigger world and vice versa.




Top: Castelvania: Lament of Innocence (2003)
Bottom: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (2007)


With better graphics the action becomes more realistic (within reason, if you're sporting a cartoon style you can play with reality). The 3D player has to be able to turn around and see the world or whatever hideous creature is about to come at them. Gameplay is more intense now that you have a (fairly) realistic world to explore.

Core Mechanics & Evolution:

In both Castlevania and Metroid, the core mechanics are:

- A player character that can move in 3 directions and jump
- A player character that can attack and has subweapons
- An explorable map/world that scrolls

Castlevania also offers:
- Stages that must be cleared
- Sub weapons that have different effects
- Whip that can be upgraded

Metroid has:
- One big world connected by doors and other passages
- Samus has upgradable weapons and abilites
- Some areas need certain abilites to be reached

During the later games, a lot of these mechanics are enhanced or changed. The whip in subsequent Castlevania games becomes a tool for reaching other areas. Samus' abilites change depending on the game environment, locking onto an enemy becomes possible in the 3D games.

The core mechanics of a game have to change to keep up with the changing complexity of the environments. When technology progresses more, the audience will expect the game to be capable of much more.

A Marriage - Narrative and Mechanics

This post is all about answering the question: Is the narrative part of the gameplay or is it merely an introduction to set the scene or wallpaper? Please note the use of narrative is from early games such as Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Asteroids.

Nara-wha?:


A question, is there a story to the game Pac-Man? Yes or No? A game like Pac-Man has no discernible story, instead it is all about the "chase" and eating. What about Pitfall!? Harry has a name but not much else that makes him stand out from a stick man. There is no actual narrative in this game either but that wouldn't stop a player from creating one for the game.


There aren't many clues in the game, Harry could be anyone but why is he in the jungle and why must he get out so quickly? If you create your own narrative, doesn't it make Harry's adventure more rewarding? A player can become more involved in the game, it is no longer a demonstration of skill, it is a quest.


You could say the same for Asteroids and Space Invaders. The game mechanics and play gives you no indication as to why saving your space ship or the world is important. They are all tests of survival.



Courtship:

In 1981, Donkey Kong was the 1st game to use complete narrative in a game. The typical damsel in distress story combined with challenging gameplay. Does this narrative just an excuse for play or is it part of the game?


In Donkey Kong you're given a clear story which outlines the goal of the game. Save the girl. It is a little hard to dissect the gameplay from the narrative and vice versa. Both co-exist but it can also be argued that one is supporting the other.

Haunted House offers a different side to the argument. The game's story gives you a reason for playing this game but without it the player would be clueless of their goal.


There are not enough visual clues in this screen shot to show what is the goal of this game. Which of these icons represents the player? If you weren't familiar with this game, you would not know that it was the pair of eyes.


Rags to Riches is a game about a homeless man who decides that he is going to work his way up the social ladder. The catch is, the player is the homeless man. Although there is no narrative, the player has to connect with this character and the world.

The game provides real life obstacles, the man must get a haircut if he wishes to seek employment but must also dodge the police, robbers and the IRS. This game gives the opportunity for the player to create a story for the character but one that is in the confines of the world.

Although there is a long term goal, the "story" is obviously a way to set the scene for the game. Sadly, if you do reach the goal of becoming a millionare, there is no ending. The game will still continue to play the game of life.

Case Studies:


Bentley Bear finds himself in a castle filled with monsters and witch who are out to get him so he won't walk away with large amounts of the witch's treasure. The plot of Crystal Castles provides you with background for the game. It is one of the few games that features a definite ending instead of repeating the game on a higher difficulty level.

What is the core mechanic and what genre would you call the game?

The player has to find the best way to move Bentley around the screen to collect gems and avoid enemies. Bentley also has the ability to jump on and over enemies.

Crystal Castle is a platformer with some puzzle game elements, you need to complete the level quickly but you also need to move in the environment that allows you to maxinmise your chances of survival.

Does it matter that Bentley is a bear?
Bentley the Bear provides a basis for themeing designs of collectables it doesn't really add anything to the story. You could replace the bear with just about anything from a frog to a robot without harming the story.



Consider The Legend of Zelda (1986) – does it matter that Link is a young boy? What mythos does this game call on?

The Legend of Zelda and its subsequent children showcase how a narrative intergrates into gameplay. Link's goal is to save the princess but there is also the bigger goal of saving Hyrule from Ganon.

Playing as a young boy(man in some games) helps keep the sense of high adventure prevelant in the series. The youth who is exploring unknown lands echoes the player's exploration of the game world. When Link accquires new skills and items, the player can use these to track their own progression.

Link is an archetypal hero who can be found in different forms and media. From fairytales to comic books, the hero has many forms. Joseph Cambell's book The Hero with a Thousand Faces illustrates the journey of the hero.


Looking at the diagram, you can make connections to the flow of typical RPG games.

Obviously as technology progresses, the need for more involvement from the player into the game and world grows. There is a growing number of games that focus on the narrative and use the games as a means of telling that story.

On the flipside there are still games that use the narrative as a frame for launching their game. Having a narrative enables the player(s) to participate at a deeper level, making the game more enjoyable or at the least more interactive.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Text Adventure - Finding a torch

I'm still drafting the essay in my head and on the computer so here's where it stands at the moment. This is rough and rambling so nothing will make much sense, this post is another launching point.

Main point - Star Wars is cultural phenomena

Arguments:

It is cultural icon
Star Wars is one, it has pervaded the world like a virus. There are generations who have not seen the films and yet still have a vague understanding of scenarios, quotes and characters. The influences of this series can still be felt today.

Considered to be responsible the "Hollywood blockbuster effect"
Jaws and Star Wars: A New Hope are considered to be the movies that made the "summer movie blockbuster" a ritual. These type of film is associated with fast-paced action and a "thrill factor" that made repeat viewings enjoyable.

Set standard for movie franchises
Rule of threes? A double edged sword topic where hearsay is rampant. Given the number of film franchises and trilogies... who knows. Star Wars did prove that trilogies could be successful and marketable.

Has huge fan base
I will be mentioning this but not writing in great detail about how influential this is.

Use of computer generated graphics
In the 1970s, Star Wars presented an innovation in using computer generated special effects for the first film. Lucas' need for cutting edge visual effects spawned the genus for Industrial Light & Magic but also inspired geeks to do more with their computers.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Episode VI - What's my line?

Here's a bunch of quotes on the cultural impact of Star Wars.

Emerson, J n.d:
"For 22 years, between the release of the original "Star Wars" film ("Episode IV: A New Hope") and the release of the first prequel ("Episode I: The Phantom Menace"), the "Star Wars" phenomenon had an impact on American popular culture like nothing else before, or since."

"The "Star Wars" phenomenon wasn't really so much about "content," though. It was more about capturing zeitgeist-lightning (or hyperspace star fields) in a bottle."

Hunter, S in Brown, J 2009:
"And that moment, I think, it's just one of the most treasured moments I have in a life of movie going. I mean, it promised so much, it was so romantic, it was so revitalizing, it was so much a sense of reinventing the genre, that it's a very powerful emotional moment."

"Well, for better or for worse, it spawned a host of imitators. Not imitators in the sense that they -- I'm not talking about cheesy imitations or parodies, but what it did was it made -- it sort of made the summer movie blockbuster. "

Pollock, T in Caro, R 2005:
"These are coming into a vastly different cultural world," Pollock said. "That not only includes the `Star Wars' movies but so many other large, long trilogies, Asian movies, epic movies. . . . Did `Lord of the Rings' have the impact that `Star Wars' had? No -- not because it isn't as good. I loved it dearly. But it came into a world where `Star Wars' existed and so many other things too."

Bach, S in Rickey, C 2005:
"Star Wars' transformed Hollywood from a moviemaking town into a synergized marketing town,"

Shyamalan, MN in Rickey, C 2005:
"He created a religion," says Shyamalan. "No other filmmaker has ever done that."

Ealy, C 1999:
"...they're trying to understand the cultural significance of the Star Wars saga, and in turn, discover clues about how a story captures the imagination of a society. It's too easy to dismiss Star Wars as unworthy of critical attention, they say. It's quite another matter to attempt to understand its resonance."

Biskard, P in Ealy, C 1999:
"Star Wars legitimized comic-book movies, where the endings are happy. It took serial formulas, B-movie formulas of the 1930s, and used modern technology to pump up those formulas and reinvent them. I call it the gentrification of the B movie. . . . It paved the way for the blockbuster syndrome of the '80s."

Jenkins, H 2005:
"The rich narrative universe of the Star Wars saga provided countless images, icons, and artifacts that could be reproduced in a wide variety of forms and sold to diverse groups of consumers."

"The action figures provided this generation with some of their earliest avatars, encouraging them to assume the role of a Jedi Knight or an intergalactic bounty hunter, enabling them to physically manipulate the characters and props in order to construct their own stories."

Lucas, G in Sibley 2007:
The success of the Star Wars series would not be possible if it did not possess an abiding cultural resonance. After the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, Mr. Lucas told an interviewer that "this is the kind of movie we need. There needs to be a kind of film that expresses the mythological realities of life -- the deeper psychological movements of the way we conduct our lives."

References:

Brown, J 2005, The impact of the Star Wars trilogy, viewed 10th March 2010,
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/jan-june05/star_wars_5-19.html .

Caro, M 2005, The power of the dark side, viewed 10th March 2010,
http://www.chicagotribune.com/chi-0505080390may08,0,5154795.story?page=1.

Ealy, C 1999, Understanding Star Wars, viewed 10th March 2010,
http://delrio.dcccd.edu/mhenry/UnderstandingStarWars.htm.

Emerson, J n.d, How Star Wars Shook the World, viewed 10th March 2010,
http://movies.msn.com/movies/starwars/?GT1=7701&.

Jenkins, H 2005, Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture, viewed 12th March 2010,
http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/starwars.html.

Rickey, C 2005, Debate brews about cultural impact of 'Star Wars', viewed 10th March 2010,
http://media.www.the-telescope.com/media/storage/paper749/news/2005/05/09/StarWars/Debate.Brews.About.Cultural.Impact.Of.star.Wars-953413.shtml.

Sibley, R 2007, How George Lucas created a cultural force, viewed 17th March 2010,
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=c782db39-0f36-4ad1-bdf2-27a115ecb422

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Text Adventure - You wake up...

I'm planning the flow of the essay while still trying to research. Don't do it that way, it is fraught with perils and distractions.

My initial plan for the essay was:

Intro:
Map out where essay is headed and briefly state what each segment is about.

Star Wars and Video Games:
Write about which games have claimed direct influence from Star Wars and which could have had some influence from the work. I would also look at the Star Wars gaming franchise as well.

Archetypes and the Quest:
This section would look at the archetypes in Lucas' work and compare and contrast it with video games.

The Blockbuster Effect:
Since the release of Episode IV, Star Wars is considered to be the model for movie franchise. Here I would write about how the blockbuster influenced the video game industry.

Conclusion:
Rinse and repeat cycle, it's a summary of all the points on why Star Wars and Lucas are influential to the video game industry.

The main problem with this outline is that there are too many points to cover in 800 words. I'm thinking of compressing into 2 sections, Video Games and The Blockbuster Effect seem the easiest in terms of substantial evidence and access.

I'd love to do Archetypes and the Quest but I think all the evidence would be circumstantial at best. It's a little fantastic to try and prove that the Master Sword is indeed the Zelda analog of a lightsaber.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Episode V - Dominating the Pixels

Let's take a look at the published Star Wars gaming commodities. Currently there are approximately 138 games with the brand name.

Starting from the 1982 Atari 2600's The Empire Strikes Back, the Empire has spread from console to console, PC and even mobile phones. Where does the Star Wars and video gaming relationship begin? Let's start at the beginning and what came before.

This is not a definitive list, it is a retrospective of games that have similar themes/style to Star Wars.

1960s

  • Spacewar!: Pitted two spaceships against each other while trying to combat the gravity well of a star.

  • Space Travel: A player operated ship would attempt to land on various planets and other space bodies.

  • Lunar Lander: A early text based game that also went under the names of Rocket, Lunar, LEM and Apollo.



1970s

  • Computer Space: Considered one of the world's first commercial coin-operated machine, this had you avoiding and returning fire from a pair of flying saucers.

  • Star Trek: A text game adventure where the player took command of the Enterprise and destroyed Klingon ships.

  • Space Attack & Space Battle: Due to a licensing hitch, these Battlestar Galactica games are a tiny dot in the Galactica franchise.

  • Space Invaders: Defend the world from aliens in one of the world's popular game.

  • Asteroids: Clear space of asteroids and pesky aliens in this famous game.

  • Star Fire: Heavily inspired from Star Wars, this game came with innovations like lock on, sit-down cock pit and allowed the player to enter their initials in the high score.

  • Star Raiders: A game that inspired the X-Wing series of the Star Wars franchise, it featured FP view in '3D' space and hyper space travelling.





Above: Biggs in the X-Wing cockpit
Below: Cover art for the video game Epic, look familiar?

Left: Cover art for Star Fire
Middle and Right: Ships from the Star Wars movies

During the early 80's, a toy company called Parker Brothers convinced Lucasfilms to let them produce games based on Star Wars for any platform. Quickly getting together a small team of operatives, the team set out to reverse engineer the Atari VCS and produce the first Star Wars game.

In general, the Atari[VCS] was so limited that we weren't so grandiose to say: 'Oh, we're going to recreate the experience of the move here'. It was clearly going to be a limited experience, something at best would remind you of the movie, evoke a little bit of the emotion and most importantly be a fun game to play. (Bradford, B in Edge, 2009)

Fun doesn't describe the results, over a million copies were sold and Parker Brothers would go on to make three more titled games. The Empire Strikes Back would prepare the world for the mass of Star Wars games that would arrive during the 80s and resurge in the new millennia.

One of the strangest video games to claim influence from Star Wars is Jeff Minter's Attack of the Mutant Camels.



Top: The Empire Strikes Back
Below: Attack of the Mutant Camels

“Normal camels aren’t that big, and so if they weren’t to be robot camels then they must be mutant camels. And thus was born a very silly game sequence indeed.” (Minter, J in Edge 2009)

Drawing inspiration from a review of the Parker Brothers' game, Minter created an imaginative experience which pitted the player against shielded camels that could fire lasers. With an aesthetic borrowed from The Empire Strikes Back, Minter's game could be seen as a parody but also as a retelling of the original game. The strangeness continued when Minter produced a sequel where the player assumes the role of a mutant camel flying its captors and evading the space ship from the original game.

Henry Jenkins(2005) writes that creative rewriting of science fiction, movies and television are now considered acceptable in main stream culture. With this in mind, the creation of Star Fire is not a subject of copyright infringement but a work of appreciation.

The industry increasingly refers to Star Trek or Star Wars as "franchises," using a term that makes clear the commercial stakes in these transactions. This new "franchise" system actively encourages viewers to pursue their interests in media content across various transmission channels, to be alert to the potential for new experiences offered by these various tie-ins.(Jenkins, H 2005)

When nascent technologies become more readily available, publishers and promoters are able to provide extensions of popular narrative to its fans. (Jenkins, H 2005) Star Fire places the player in a virtual cockpit of a spaceship which is modelled heavily off the x-wing fighters from Star Wars. Star Wars as a cultural phenomena seems to incite a desire to recreate the experiences in the movies.

In 1977, the movie "Star Wars" came out, and Ted(Michon) thought it was the best movie ever, and he wanted to develop a game in this genre... Ted and his wife prepared the graphics, which had a "Star Wars" look to them. He figured that either we would license the rights or we would make whatever changes were necessary to avoid legal infringements... So the succinct answer to your question is that Exidy had very little input into the game play, and Ted was responsible for the Star Wars look. (Rolfe, D in Good Deal Games 2006)

From this, one could argue that several of the x number of space games have been attempts to emulate the experience of Luke Skywalker and Rebel Army to reclaim their piece of the universe from the hand of the evil Empire.

References:

Backwards Compatible - Star Wars 2008, Good Game, ABC1, 28 September 2008.

Edge Magazine 2009, The Making Of:Attack of The Mutant Camels
http://www.edge-online.com/magazine/the-making-of-attack-of-the-mutant-camels.

Edge Magazine 2009, 'The Making Of... Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back', Edge Magazine, col 209, pp. 112 - 115.

Gametrailers.com 2008, The Star Wars Retrospective Episode I, viewed 13th March 2010, http://www.gametrailers.com/video/episode-i-star-wars/31944.

Good Deal Games 2006, Interview with David Rolfe
http://www.gooddealgames.com/interviews/int_rolfe.html.

Jenkins, H 2005, Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture, viewed 12th March 2010,
http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/starwars.html.

'History of Video Games', Wikipedia, viewed 5th March 2010,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_video_games.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Episode IV - Why Star Wars?

Who's or what is the most influential person/item in modern gaming? Out of a list of 17 possible entries, it's boiled down to writing about George Lucas and Star Wars. How does a space opera from the 70's lead to the development of contemporary games? It's a good question, I hope I can find the answer as I look into this cultural phenomena.
[I will be adding more to this as the days go by. This is a very rough bouncing board where thoughts don't connect yet.]

General Points about Star Wars:

  • It is considered a cultural unifier

  • Has had a significant impact on American pop culture

  • Scenes, characters and quotes are part of popular lexicon (lingo)

  • Early example of film pastiche (combination of genre)

  • Introduced advances in computer generated special effects

  • Generated model for movie trilogies and franchises

  • Help establish big budget blockbuster industry


Star Wars is BIG business but sales figures and graphs don't give us a clear picture as to why it is such a cultural icon, much less how it's influenced modern gaming. Much of the information about Star Wars is either Star Wars trivia (facts from the fictional universe) or heavily opinionated discussion on a number of topics, cultural, religious, cinematic or economic.

What do we know about Star Wars and video gaming? During the creation and development of Space Invaders, creator Tomohiro Nishikado was having trouble coming up with a design that would work with the limitations of the technology.

Then I heard about a movie called Star Wars released in the U.S. which was coming to Japan next year, so I came up with a game based in space which had space aliens as targets.(Nishikado in Edge, 2005)

Fast forward some years and to some people, it is evident that the Force did have a role to play in the development of video games.

"`Star Wars' didn't create video games but it totally influenced them," says Peer Schneider, senior publisher of IGN.com, a Web site for video gamers. "The Death Star trench run in the original `Star Wars' is the archetypal video game climax: Fire a missile, hit a weak spot and everything gets destroyed."(Rickey, C, 2005)

Ironically this would later become the plot of a Star Wars arcade game, suggesting that there are some facets of pop culture do come full circle.

References:

Edge 2005,The Creation of Space Invaders, viewed 12th March 2010, http://www.edge-online.com/news/the-creation-space-invaders.

Edwards, B, n.d., Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Space Invaders Celebrating 30 Years of Shooting at Sushi., viewed 5th March 2010,
http://www.1up.com/do/feature?pager.offset=1&cId=3168373.

Ebert, R 1999, Great Movies: Star Wars, viewed 11th March 2010,
http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19990628/REVIEWS08/906280301/1023.

Rickey, C 2005, Debate brews about cultural impact of 'Star Wars', viewed 10th March 2010,
http://media.www.the-telescope.com/media/storage/paper749/news/2005/05/09/StarWars/Debate.Brews.About.Cultural.Impact.Of.star.Wars-953413.shtml.

'Space Invaders' 2010, Wikipedia, viewed 5th March 2010,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Invaders.

'Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 2010, Wikipedia, viewed 10th March 2010,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_Episode_IV:_A_New_Hope.


Stuff to be analysed:
- Edge Magazine 2006, A Short History of LucasArts
http://www.edge-online.com/features/a-short-history-lucasarts

- Jenkins, H 2005, Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?:
Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture

http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/starwars.html

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Games in Animation History

Animation has a long and varied history with many differing attitudes and styles, from art house to slapstick comedy. This semester, I'm supposed to take a class (Animation, Auteurs and Digital environments) that is all about analysing and critiquing Animation(and games) in it's historical context and comparing it with the precedent.

The gamers in the class are outraged, this doesn't have much to do with our degree, much less our preferred subject matter. Not to mention that the animators already have a leg up with having done a history course. (we think) Persevere we must.

So what's a gamer to do when the BIG assignment is all about, taking a film, game, studio, series of work and discussing how it fits into the context of Animation History? Try and work something out with as little information that you have.

(9/3/10) : I think my lack of understanding these categories is hindering the kind of essay ideas I am coming up with. I hope the lecturer will clear this up instead of leaving us in the dust.

Here's a great big list of the categories for the subject with some of my ideas on what I can do with it.

Animation as Optical Toy:
I'm pretty sure all games can be considered an optical toy or a use of optical illusions. Being digital in nature, there is a fine line between a game being an actual object and the experience of playing the game. The main question would be, is a game really just an elaborate optical toy?

Game products based on traditional optical toys:
- Eye Toy
- Project Natal
- XBox Live Vision

Animation as Comic:
My initial understanding of this was the use of comedy but instead it refers to the transition of comic books or strips to animation. I'm thinking of using it to compare or contrast on the following topics:
- how narrative is used
- influence on how story is told
- graphic styles
- influence on culture (comics on games or games on comics)

Find a franchise and see if a game has been made of it, there are just too many to name.

Here's some examples:
- Spiderman
- Batman
- Gundam
- Visual Novels

Animation as Theatre:
According to my course guide this is where the history of comedy is referenced. Not sure if it also refers to theatrical arts. Likely topics to cover would be the use of comedy in games, methods of characterisation (how characters are expressing themselves) or use of theatrical elements. Not sure of the exact requirements, hopefully it will cleared up soon.

Here's something that reads like work:
- how character animation impacts/enhance user response to either story or gameplay
- development of comedy in games
- use of comedy in game eg. in dialogue, character interaction

Some games to look at:
- Sam & Max
- Monkey Island Series
- Toonstruck
- Newgrounds

Animation as Live Action:
TV sitcoms, Disney and Games are all listed under this topic, so I guess an essay about the gameplay mechanics eg. immediate response of controller to screen. Not too sure, it's hard working in the dark.

Though Live Action Gaming does turn up LARP if you look. I don't think that's what the assignment is asking for.

Animation as Fine Art:
The most obvious choice is art games, the hardest task is finding enough examples and reference material to talk effectively about this genre.
Essay topics would include:
- How the art game (auteur game) is impacting on the gaming scene
- Why there is an increase of art games
- What is the role of an art game / How does a game without game play work

Games to look at:
- flOw
- Flower
- Today I Die
- Aether
- Braid
- Heavy Rain

Animation as Puppet:
Digital puppetry is the subject matter here, so things like machinima or avatars are a crucial element to crafting an essay.

Games/Items to look at:
- The Sims
- Second Life
- Red vs Blue
- World of Warcraft

Simular products:
- Populus
- Black & White

These are looking at using computer generated "people" and manlipulating them as their God.
Essay Topics:
- Use of video games as a film making technology
- Social factors in digital environments
- Use of avatar in playing games

Animation as Music:
Something about music videos so I guess music games may be covered in this section. Perhaps writing about the multiplayer/social group of these games.

Modern Music Games:
- Dance Dance Revolution
- Guitar Hero
- PaRappa the Rapper
- Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan or Elite Beat Agents
- Electroplankton

Animation as Science:
Early computer experimentation, edu-tainment (serious games) and virutal simulations are all linked in this topic. The obvious thing is to find a product and blab on about it, though I'm not sure how well you can link military simulations to the history of animation...

Topics to look at:
- Early computer programs eg. graphic user interfaces
- Virtual simulations eg. military training simulations, Sim City
- Educational games
- AI, Real Time Strategy units

Games to look at:
- Sim City
- Spore
- The Sims
- VBS1 & VBS2 (Training tool for the British Military and the USMC and other military forces around the world)

Non Games:
- Ghost in the Shell
- The Matrix
- Tron

The problem with this is I think I would keep going back to how graphics are needed to make this user friendly... I think I am missing the point of this essay.

Animation as Documentary:
Virtual realities, multi-player and games with ethical/political messages are the call here.

Stuff to look at:
- The Sims eg. Alice & Kev
- World of Warcraft
- Second Life
- Harpooned
- Dafur is Dying
- Escape from Woomera

Animation as Play:
I have no idea as to what this topic will be, I'm tossing up between stage play and "I'm going to play". If it's the later, there will be way too many things to think about since nearly all games are about play.

(11/3/10): Out lecturer doesn't even know what this is going to be. I think it is heading towards "gameplay" which will be a tricky path indeed.