Author Archives: Insert Coin(s) to Continue

Essay 2: Putting It All To A Close

Insert Coin(s) to Continue has always been first and foremost, a blog about my experience and thoughts surrounding game design. Having game design concepts be communicated in a written blog was more of a way for me to get my ideas and understandings centralized in one place. Continuous blogging got me to look for different topics to write about, and research further into the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of game development. By doing so, I could address a broad audience with my take of my subject of interest, while pointing out things in a manner that just about anyone could pick up and relate to. I picked common aspects that occur even from the most casual of games to the hardcore, pointing out what seems to be the blatantly obvious, but simple themes no one stops to think about. In this sense, I had envisioned my public sphere to be much more than a single demographic of readers, but rather anyone who has even the slightest interest in games.

Although the intentions behind the blog was purely self-interest, over the course of the semester it has become more of a learning resource, not just for myself, but for my readers as well. Posing open-ended questions to myself and my public holds intrinsic value, as it gets me to think of addressing an audience, regardless of whether or not I have one or not. Google Analytics allowed me to rid myself of the uncertainty, by allowing me to track the traffic of my website, allowing for invaluable data for me to access. Examples of this would be to see what types of topics are the most popular, and what kind of demographic region my blog is reaching. Even by the end of this semester, where I was aware of just how few viewers were visiting the blog and posts, it never stopped me from keeping my ideas and prose open-ended for a wider audience. This is because envisioning the viewers as people I could actively talk to, making it easier for my writing to be a little more candid than the stiff prose I normally use for writing essays or other lengthy writing. In consideration of this, I deliberately chose not to implement advertisements on my blog, despite the possible monetary gain that can result from proper ad placement. But as a person who always has ad-block on, it doesn’t feel fair to my users to be detracting from their experience by distracting them with irrelevant material on the blog.

Coming back full circle to the course, and to the first page of PUB101, everyone is a publisher. An exaggeration at first, when thinking of the people who successfully establish their blogging presence. But that isn’t necessarily the case. No matter how small one’s viewership is, they remain to be a publisher so long as they continue to produce content. Which raises the question of whether or not that makes me a publisher after this semester is over. I remain uncertain whether or not I shall continue updating my blog on a regular basis, or even at all. So by that definition, do I still qualify as a publisher anymore? That question depends on how much interest I still have in spending time on blogging. But nevertheless, I still have the remaining 8 months of my domain in which I still have a writing space available. Insert Coin(s) to Continue certainly has been an interesting experience, to say the least. Not just the content-writing portion of the blog, but the gradual improvements of design over several months. One article of the required readings in particular struck a chord in me. It was titled, “Why I Am Not a Maker”, and particularly, the section where it mentions Ayn Rand in which she says: “any work that needed to be done day after day was meaningless, and that only creating new things was a worthwhile endeavor.” (Chacra, C., 2015). And to that, I wholeheartedly agreed. Before anything else, this blog was for school. There were weekly requirements to be fulfilled, essays to write, peers to review. On some days where I’d struggle to have time to write, school would have to take priority, thus further shelving the time for another regular post. And this is not to the fault of the course, having needed to teach and evaluate as necessary. But I shall abandon my blog for now, in hopes of one day I feel like I shall revisit it just for old times sake.

 

References:

Bleymaier, T. (2013). On Advertising. Retrieved from http://on-advertising.tumblr.com/

Chachra, D. (2015). Why I am not a maker. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/why-i-am-not-a-maker/384767/

Warner, M. (2002). Publics and Counterpublics. Quarterly Journal of Speech. Retrieved from http://knowledgepublic.pbworks.com/f/warnerPubCounterP.pdf

The Fine Line Between Horror and Action/Thriller

A little late for a post about horror, but I would say it’s one of my least preferred genre. Not because I’m a giant scaredy cat or anything (that’s half of it), but I don’t think I’ve ever played an outstanding horror game. My biggest gripes comes from games that advertise or list themselves as being horror, but fail to deliver.  In particular,  I’d like to refer to something I recently finished, and am playing the sequel to, Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within.

Now, the biggest gripe I have with the horror genre itself, is games that label themselves as horror, but allow the player too much agency in fighting back. Now what does this mean? It means giving your players way too many resources to survive against the visceral horrors that plague the protagonist. Is it really that scary if you can always face your biggest fears with a gun? To have it so easily defeated with merely a pull of the trigger? No. A horror game should instill fear into the player through a sense of helplessness. A feeling that there’s something always lurking, something always watching, but they are powerless against what they’re fighting against. When I was playing The Evil Within, it was only in the beginning of the game that I actually felt this sense of dread and hopelessness. Armed with naught but a pistol and maybe six bullets if I was lucky, I have to fight my way through hordes (okay maybe like a group) of zombies. But due to pacing issues, and the issuance of several more firearms, it soon turned from a horror game, to an action shooter RPG.

This isn’t to say The Evil Within is a bad game (though I do hold many issues with it), but for the horror I was expecting, I was vastly disappointed. I always viewed fears and trauma as being something not very easily able to shake off, something that had to be dealt with over time, and not always to the conclusion of having overcome all the hurdles and challenges. Sometimes there is no happy ending.

Now let’s look at a game Outlast developed by Red Barrel Studios. Now, disclaimer, I haven’t played this game but have watched the game being played, so my opinion is subjective here. But Outlast does horror right. The protagonist is naught but a bystander, caught up in the events of what happens in the game, armed with naught but a camera to record the horrific events that entail in order to pursue the truth. Unable to fight back, the player has to find their way out, sneaking past with bated breath or running for dear life from the psychopathic horrors that inhabit Outlast. And by the end of it, you think you’ve solved the problem. You’ve beaten the game, and you’re done. With a sigh of relief, you head for the exit.

But the horror was never done with you.

Outlast didn’t need any weapons or countless zombies to fight to make it a successful horror game. All it needed was someone who was human, with fears just like everybody else. By the time you put down the game, you should actually be breathing a sigh of relief, having distanced yourself from the horror. To wind down and come to terms that things are okay, that it’s just a game. But good horror games like Outlast are powerful, in that it leaves a lasting effect. Maybe you’ll start being a little wary, the next time you peek around a corner, or jump at the nearest shadow. That, is what a good horror game should do.

Thanks for reading, and until next time,

Insert Coin(s) to Continue

Process Post #11: Community Guidelines

The community guidelines for my website would look a little something like this:

  1. Be respectful to those around you.
  2. No trolling. Lack of context and argument will just lead to a bad time.
  3. No derogatory language, even as jest. You don’t know who is reading.
  4. No advertising. It’s unlikely pertinent to the content of the blog, and I keep the site ad-free, so do me that favor as well.
  5. Keep discussion relevant to the topic at hand. As much as I’d like to know your life story, the comments is not the place to do it.
  6. Avoid explicitly sexual content. It may become a relevant topic, but there’s other places on the internet for that.

Because the comments are moderated by myself and have to be approved before being shown, I am able to sift through offensive and/or inappropriate content. There are, of course, rules that aren’t stated above, but will be handled on a case-by-case basis. The general but important rules are covered above. Users who do not abide by the community guidelines are subject to having their comments being withheld. These rules can be implemented simply by having a page users can access from the menu, in which I can refer to this post or make a more extensive community guideline.

A Story Without Words

A short work originally intended as a requirement for school, A Story Without Words is something I drafted with no real direction, but came together in a satisfying fashion. Previously, I had always addressed all the narrative in my game through dialogue. As much as I like to tell a good story through heaps of dialogue, sometimes it wouldn’t be so bad to do some exposition with the visuals and audio alone. Of course, its not a technique I’d like to be using a lot, as the impact might be dulled the more I use it, but it’s another technique in my arsenal nonetheless. As for the resources used in the video, I’ll find a way to incorporate it into my game. There’s boundless potential after all.

Process Post #9 – Transmedia Integration

Being primarily a text heavy blog, it wouldn’t make very much sense for me to be spreading my content thin, especially when I only update about once a week. But if I were to choose a channel to focus on, it would probably be Facebook. A quick Facebook page for my blog that could alert my followers as to when I update could be something to look forward to. I don’t use Facebook for personal use, but if I decide to pursue writing in my blog further, it would probably be a good idea to get a Facebook page, especially considering its widespread use. It could also be a place where I could write short excerpts that are too brief to be a post, but still be something amusing to draw readers to and to check back into.

Player Agency vs. Player Choice

Choice is often something we take for granted, something we assume we always have when performing any given action. Multiple choice in an exam, for example. Four different options, only one right answer. But what if there were no right answer? The examination never specified that there was even an answer to begin with. In this case, you might feel cheated. You never really had a choice. What you had was agency, where you chose an option you thought to be right. Now what kind of trickery, deviltry, and/or black magickses is that? In games, sometimes this line is blurred, often in favor of narrative choices, but other times, they just don’t make sense. As always, I’ll be starting off with an example to better illustrate my point.

Oh, and by the way, the next game actually has spoilers for the first game of the Bioshock series, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip the next paragraph. But really, it’s been ten years already. It’s a great game, but I feel like you don’t really care by this point if you haven’t played the game by now. Whatever man, I gave my spoiler warning.

Source: 2K Game’s Bioshock Retrieved from http://www.everyview.com/2009/08/01/video-game-review-bioshock-xbox-360/

In 2K Game’s Bioshock, the main reveal of the plot, is that you have been progressing through the world of Rapture through the direction of the main villain the entire time. Embedded with the sleeper phrase (a phrase that conditioned the player’s character to do anything once activated): “Would you kindly,” the player moves from area to area, unaware of the fact that they were doing it under the pretense of a request. As the big reveal occurs, it turns out the player is unable to move or disobey the directions given once the phrase was uttered. This was a clever turnaround used by the creators to give the false impression that the player was playing the game out of their own free will. But in the grander scheme of things, this would be an occasion where the player ‘has no choice’ in favor of the narrative.

Games can do clever things like that, so long as it serves another purpose. Bioshock did this well, by granting the player an illusion of choice, but to explain it within context of the story. There are many cases in other games however, where you are given choices, but none of them matter. A forked road that requires you to make a choice to go left or right, but ultimately ends up in the same road. In the broad sense of things, it doesn’t seem all that different from Bioshock (though on a smaller sense of scale), but because of how the choices were presented and handled, the player only feels cheated. If choosing a choice doesn’t lead to a significant or different outcome, then what was the point?

Source: http://orig14.deviantart.net/977b/f/2012/080/d/5/me3_flowchart_by_ruusaarcin-d4tj98q.jpg

This flowchart pretty much sums up the ending of Mass Effect 3, effectively upsetting a lot of the playerbase due to the ending disregarding many of the previously-made choices in the game. All the decisions eventually accumulated into nothing, making it more of a one-way street rather than an open-ended, choice-driven game.

So the point to drive home here is that if you decide to give your player agency to make meaningful choices, then ensure that their choices have some sort of meaning behind them. The payoff doesn’t have to be immediate, but there should be some sort of acknowledgement to let the player know that their investment in the game doesn’t go unrewarded.

Until next time,

Insert Coin(s) to Continue

Peer Review of The GM Tim

A first glance at Tim’s website, The GM Tim, tells you all you need to know about his services in a succinct and orderly fashion. The details and pricing regarding his services are summarized on the very first page, being the first point of entry of the website and allowing viewers to know the necessities and functionality of the website. The menus and social media buttons are neatly tucked away in the corners; an excellent way to avoid cluttering the page, but noticeable enough in their gold color to stand out. It is clear that Tim aims to reach audiences not just those who are veterans in tabletop experiences, but to encourage newcomers as well, making his public not just one which targets a specific demographic.

Upon exploring the menus tab in the top left corner, it unfolds neatly into more details regarding the scheduling behind the services, as indicated on the front page. There is also a section for contacting Tim himself for further details should the reader find anything they should concern themselves with, making the website feel accessible to the user. It is worthy to note that even when presented with the option, it appears that there are no advertisements adorning the website. While it is certain that revenue is an issue in maintaining a website and exerting effort into content, Tim does so in a modest fashion that utilizes his own capabilities as opposed to cluttering the website from what it really is: a professional environment.

The content aspect of the blog seems to be progressing consistently, with regular posts showing up at frequent intervals, making it something to look forward to if one continually checks back. The posts are engaging, with it being especially a pleasure to see someone talk about their interests as passionately as I would my own craft. Although I myself have never played a game of D&D, I know enough about it to be able to relate to what Tim is talking about, which makes it interesting from a standpoint. I probably would not have thought myself as being interested in tabletop games, nor would Tim have known to whom his site may have been addressing. But this only goes to show that content isn’t just specifically aimed towards who you think you’re directing it towards.

Though I may not intend to be using Tim’s services anytime in the near future, I do look forward to reading some of the posts he has on his blog. If you’re interested in such an experience, do visit his site at The GM Tim.

Process Post #8 – Google Analytics

What surprised me about my Google Analytics?

Nothing, really.

What was I supposed to be expecting from my blog anyway? I hadn’t begun advertising it to others, so there’s no word out about it. As my page viewcount flat-lines into its final breath, I know its only a bit longer before it’s finally game over. All that Google Analytics has shown me is that data can be mined from your users and used as an efficient resource. From the information that Google Analytics provides, I could use the page views for example, to see what particular type of content my audience likes to see, and could perhaps build more upon that. Or if I looked at location accessed, I could relate my topics more to a specific demographic of people. However, the problem for me is the lack of sample size in order to make good use of the information.

Development Stalls

One of the biggest issues and fears I have in game development, is development stalls. Since my game is just a personal project, I’m not looking to have it released in the future. And because of this, I don’t have rigid schedules of development. Meaning, if I don’t feel like working on my project on any given day, I can just push it off indefinitely. And this is where the development trap occurs. One day can turn in weeks, to months without progress being made, simply due to lack of motivation and excuses of being busy. Eventually I may even just forget about it until somethings jogs my memory of it, and by then, it may be to discouraging to even pick up again.

And that is how many games remain uncompleted.

It’s said that without a doubt, your first project will most likely fail. The developer may have scoped too big, schedule runs behind, and funding is running dry. With the deadline nigh, you may have to ship what you’ve got, broken or not, because you’ve spent too much time, advertising, and resources to have it fail now. And no one whose spent the time and effort on a project wants to see that happen. In my case, my goal has the total gameplay to hit some forty or more hours. Ambitious for my first game, and very likely to fail. By the end of it, it’s not going to be a triple A title, a bestseller, or even good. But I’m inclined to make it work because I enjoy the process. I may not even finish my game in my lifetime.

So what’s a lone developer to do when development stalls hit?

Unfortunately, there is no answer to this. It’s dependent from person to person, and what their schedule allows. What I should be doing, is constructing a schedule of what I should be doing, and breaking the tasks up into smaller, more manageable tasks. And then by the end of the week, I should have a certain number of tasks completed. Seems like a sound plan in theory. But this isn’t some short-term homework assignment that can be one and done in one go. Frustrations have already occurred, with art taking up a good chunk of development time due to inexperience and many revisions. It is a terrible idea to be focused on the aesthetic parts rather than the actual game itself, but I can’t help but want to have prototypes for each aspect of my game.

Despite all this griping, I still have a bit of relief, knowing that I won’t have to compromise. No development deadlines means no cutting corners. My budget is my time, and my resources is my imagination. So no matter what, I’ll keep trying to dream big, otherwise it just wouldn’t be my game anymore.

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Process Post #8 – Monetization

As of the moment, monetization of my website is not a priority. Google Analytics has allowed me to see how much user traffic is reaching my site. I realize that my blog is just newly formed and that I’m not going to be receiving waves of users, but it just isn’t worth it to start investing in advertisements at this point in time. I would much rather development an audience first and foremost by drawing them in with my content. With that, comes the self-advertisement of my own blog so that it can reach more viewers, but I still remain unsure how committed I want to be with this blog before I wish to do so.

Sponsored content, such as for games, would be ideally the goal for monetizing my blog. But with that, comes with the need to reach out to game developers to allow me play, review, and analyze their games. But without a sizeable audience, it just isn’t feasible to entertain at the moment. Ads tend to be almost always come off as obnoxious and obstructive rather than informative. Most people even have adblock on, regardless of whether or not they know that ads will help the website out, so ads feel like a inefficient way to generate (no matter how small) revenue. There have been better methods of garnering support than ads, such as Patreon. So if there ever comes a day when I do decide that I wish to receive money for my content, it will most likely be from the willing donations to a Patreon I will inevitably forget/never set up