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Essay 1: The Information Ratrace

The Information Ratrace

The urgency of obtaining and publishing news articles has led to the degeneration of the verisimilitude of information. This is not only the fault of news outlets, but of the readers who consume said media as well. Did you, the reader, ever consider to question whether the vocabulary used in the first sentence of this paragraph was properly used, or mean what you had perceived it to mean? For every vocabulary word that one does not know in a given essay, how often does the reader investigate the meaning and context of the word used to ensure accuracy? The lack of verification behind information we receive and from news outlets who publish news stories often leads to problems with misconstrued constructions of what we believe to be the truth.

The PEW Research Center conducted a survey on how Americans receive news from social media sites. “As of August 2017, two-thirds (67%) of Americans report that they get at least some of their news on social media.” (Gottfried, J., & Shearer, E., 2017). Social media doesn’t take into account the contents of what users post, meaning news of any form can be distributed without discretion. Due to the nature of social media’s vast accessibility, it only further perpetrates the issues by allowing articles (whether accurate or not) to spread without verification. Should news articles contain misinformation, it only serves to misinform and spread confusion among the public. This raises the issue of how many people are questioning the accuracy of the news they are consuming. Part of the reason why fake news is so rampant is because many viewers are eager to believe the first thing they receive due to the convenience of locating news on Google or social media. Social media has been so saturated with news stories that it has become difficult to pick apart relevant information from fake news.

Take the recent Las Vegas shooting for example. On October 1st, 2017, a gunman open fired upon a crowd of people attending a concert. “Links to the 4chan website falsely identified the shooter as Geary Danley, calling him a leftist and Democratic supporter. The misinformation gained traction after Internet sleuths scoured social media to identify the gunman faster than police, and the erroneous report appeared at the top of Google results for searches on Danley.” (Guynn, J., 2017). Despite the lack of information known shortly after the shooting, rumors and misinformation had already begun to spread on the 4chan website, misidentifying the gunman for another individual. For an accusation of that caliber, it can cause undue defamation of an innocent individual, not to mention the disrespect done to the falsely accused to have been associated with the tragic event. The blame not only lies on the users who participated in the misinformation hoax, but on Google as well for listing Danley’s name on top of the search engine instead of the criminal Stephen Paddock’s name. Due to there being no accurate news related to the gunman’s identity, Google’s algorithms are deceived into putting the first result that occurs in their search for related news.

The reason why the blame also falls upon news media outlets is due to the various pressure factors. According to The Guardian, there are “numerous accounts from journalists about the pressures in UK newsrooms that lead to dodgy stories being reported uncritically.” For a news media outlet, having an influx of viewers come to their source as a first means information means more revenue for the media outlet. With profits in mind, news media outlets are likely to resort to obtaining information as quickly as possible in order to draw in readers. As a result, there are many cases in which fake news was reported due to insufficient background checks or a general disregard entirely. News media outlets have recognized methods of drawing viewers in through a particular method known as “click-baiting”; a method in which the title of an article is written in an enticing manner, but does not convey any information about the topic. The issue with this strategy is that the contents of the article are usually very lackluster and uninformative. With the competitive nature of the journalism industry, some companies choose to take any method possible to generate income to eke a profit. However, at the cost of reputation and faith in the news outlet, the resulting fallout of disappointed users may hurt revenue more than the advantage of reporting as soon as possible or drawing in as many users as possible.

As a media content creator myself, it is in my best interest to verify the information I receive, as relevant news can alter my opinions and responses to related situations. This is especially important when it pertains to current and/or sensitive topics. When faced with emerging news, it is prudent to wait for situations to become updated as authorities and experts draw closer to understanding the situation. Double checking information with trusted sources who have garnered trust among its viewer base can help reduce issues with fake news, and brings us closer to the truth.

 

Sources:

Dvorkin, J. (2016, April 26th). Why click-bait will be the death of journalism. PBS. Retrieved October 12th, 2017 from “http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/what-you-dont-know-about-click-bait-journalism-could-kill-you/”

Gottfried, J., & Shearer, E. (2017, September 7th). News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017. PEW Research Center. Retrieved October 10th, 2017 from “http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/”

Guynn, J. (2017, October 2nd, 2017). Google search spread wrong info from 4chan on Las Vegas shooting suspect. USA Today. Retrieved October 10th, 2017 from “https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2017/10/02/las-vegas-shooting-google-spread-stories-wrong-suspect-4-chan/724109001/”

Rawlinson, K. (2016, April 17th, 2017). How newsroom pressure is letting fake stories on the web. The Guardian. Retrieved October 11th, 2017 from “https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/apr/17/fake-news-stories-clicks-fact-checking”

Negative Possibility Space

Negative possibility space, a term that is used to describe any content that is seemingly explorable or interactive, but ultimately doesn’t serve a purpose. In design, you could call this ‘white space’. In games, this white space could serve as a potential juxtaposition in the level’s design, or it could really just be a dead end. If you’ve ever done some exploring in a game and perhaps run into the end of a corridor, you might as yourself: why? Why waste my time? There’s nothing here, there’s no point in me being here, there’s nothing to do here. Kind of a disappointment, isn’t it.

Of course, dead ends aren’t the only kind of negative possibility space. “Invisible Walls” are just as they imply; they are boundaries that block movement without any visual indicator, even if it looks like it’s possible to enter, the player may just simulate the movement animation in place against this “wall” or even just not respond to movement commands at all. Take the next image as an example.

What you see is just a regular road, and a dirt path to the west. Looks enticing, so go explore!

Well, the path doesn’t actually lead anywhere. Your character kind of just collides into a wall. All right, turn back, move on with your life. Thought you were clever, weren’t you? Thinking that you had discovered something neat. Well I could’ve made a clearing that connected at the end of the road. I could have even placed a hidden pitfall trap that kills your character as soon as you entered! You might be thinking “Oh, there’s traps in this area!” or, “Asshole.” Either way, I managed to make use of that space to inform or interact with my player in some meaningful manner. Or maybe all it was is me wanting to get you killed.

So with all the possibilities that can be entertained, why do many games still have this negative space? Well it could be lazy design, for one. Less content means less work. But in other cases it could just be meant to guide or funnel your player to where you want your player to go. The player only has as many options as you give them (or, they could like, find ways to break the game). Visual indicators are a key part of communicating this to your player, so that it doesn’t become misleading.

Riding a horse in Bethesda’s Skyrim

Walls that act as they are supposed to (so that you don’t vertically ascend a mountain, if you’re not supposed to) communicate to the player that there’s certain areas that aren’t meant to be traversed. If you do decide to let your player have freeform movement, maybe it’d be good to keep it within bounds. And presumably not defy physics if it shouldn’t. The lesson here is that negative possibility space breaks the immersion of the game, essentially lowering a player’s expectations of what they thought should be possible. And the simple solution, is to make use of that space to do something. Anything. Just so long as it rewards your player for wanting to explore the vast space of your medium.

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Process Post #5 – Explanation Behind My Design

To be blunt to start off with, I didn’t really want to make many of the suggested changes my peer, Jesse, suggested because many aren’t pertinent to what I’m looking to do with my website. That’s not to say that my blog is perfect as is (otherwise he wouldn’t have brought it up to begin with), but the design decisions made do have a reason.

So let’s go through all of the suggestions from Jesse! Perhaps this’ll provide insight.

So to begin with, Jesse states something that captures everything I want to portray: “I did like in your title how you used the parenthesis’ around the ‘s’. It made me think video games and gave me nostalgia reflecting on arcade machines and dusty old arcades.” (Jesse Finkle, 2017). Yup, you nailed it. I even custom drew the background to be an arcade machine, with the arcade screen being replaced with my content posts. Scroll to the bottom and you’ll see buttons and joysticks. Sometimes the image gets scaled funny due to screen resolution, but that’s really the least of my worries.

But then: “Moving on, I wasn’t feeling the colour scheme. I think a different background image would help people connect quicker to the game design idea.” (Jesse Finkle, 2017). I’m not an artist, I get it. But it was better than grabbing a stock photo of some arcade machine that’s either watermarked or copyrighted. Due to copyright.

Moving on, he brings in a quote from Travis Gertz:

“Whether it’s a lack of our own critical thinking or external pressure clamping down, we shy away from carving our own path. Originality is risky. It’s difficult to quantify and defend. Why try something new when someone else has already tested it for us?”

And then: “Concerning the website, I feel like you have been playing it safe, colouring within the lines, and not challenging what is ‘supposed to’ be there.” (Jesse Finkle, 2017). Excellent quote, and a fair argument. Except the background art is original and drawn by me, with coloring within lines being what little I know of art.

What’s next? The elements in my sidebar. The search bar I’ll explain later below, but having the archives isn’t a bad thing. I pretty much would like to keep that there for posterity. And to see how much content I make in a given month. Jesse also suggests a link to my ‘Game Development’ category. My entire homepage is the game development category. Nothing else shows up on my homepage other than game development posts. My home button leads to the homepage.

But, considering this is for school, I do have to make at least one design change. Thankfully PUB101’s assignment criteria for process posts aren’t specific in the least, as in the case of when I casually dismantled the Posiel website. They say to write what you know. So in the case of the criteria wanting me to make at least one design change, this means to me: “make the most minor change suggested that I agree with (removing one of the search bars) and still qualify for the criteria. After all, I wouldn’t want to lose marks, would I.

So that basically sums up all the changes and suggestions I’ve received. If you’d like to see Jesse’s full review, check it out here, as well as his blog about Instagram photos and the storytelling that goes with it.

That’s all for now. So the next time someone says I’m being lazy, hush. I’m being strategically lazy.

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User Interface: How Much Is Right?

User interface (UI) is your friend. Ranging from computer screen menus to your input controls, user interface is what draws the line of making a game playable or just straight up clunky. It also relays information to the user about pertinent aspects of the game. User interface isn’t really something people think about when playing games with the player normally just taking it for granted as a basic component. The only time you’d really pay note to it is when you run into obvious faults, like clunky or difficult menu navigation. But the quality of user interface isn’t what I’m going to be talking about. That one’s pretty straightforward in terms of what works and doesn’t work. What I really want to address, is how much user interface is right, or necessary. Let’s jump in. As usual, let’s take a look at some examples.

Looking at the player’s gauge in Metro 2033

 

Window UI for the game, Ragnarok Online

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The game from the first image comes from 4A Game’s Metro 2033. The image displays the player looking at their wristwatch, which indicates how much of their breathing filter is remaining, which is critical to the player’s survival. Did you notice how many numbers, or windows there are? Wait, there are none. The player has to rely solely on the needle indicator and the gauge to know how much of their remaining resource they have, opposed to the game just telling you “30% remaining (30 seconds) of your filter. Get a new filter!”. What this does, is maintain the feel and integrity of the game while still being informative. This comes at the cost of information relaying, as the player has to take additional time to comprehend what the UI is trying to convey. What would the game feel like if there were windows and words telling you everything? For a post-apocalyptic game like Metro 2033, would it still maintain its feel and bleakness? Perhaps a bit too much to ask, if you haven’t played the game.

The second image is from Gravity’s Ragnarok Online. I know I’m comparing apples to fighter jets here, given how far apart the genres are from one another, but stick with me now. Ragnarok’s user interface tells you a lot. Everything you need to know from your position on the map to the specifics of your character, as well as a chat bar to interact with other players. But imagine if you didn’t have all of this information and windows, and you were thrust into the game. Where would you know where to go, without a map? Could you avoid dying if you never knew how close to death or how low your health was? How about why another player is following you around, without the chat system to ask why? You would be able to soak in the scenery, but it would essentially remove all functionality from the game.

The point I’m getting at, is that UI is important for the type of game you’re playing. I feel that many games are providing too much UI, and are babysitting the player far too much than they need to. Not saying that having information is a bad thing, but honestly, sometimes you just don’t need things like this:

An example of Guild Wars 2

Not to say that NCsoft’s Guild Wars 2 is a bad game, but sometimes things can get a little out of hand. So what is the right amount of user interface in a game? The bare minimum, I would say. If games only present information in a relevant and simple manner, they can inform the player with only what they need without interfering with the core experience. Other non-essential information can just be tucked away somewhere or made smaller to be “under the hood” to be less intrusive, but still available to those who want that information. Just… don’t fill eighty percent of the screen. Please.

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Peer Review of @jessefinkle

I’m going to be reviewing Jesse Finkle’s blog: @jessefinkle, a blog about Finkle’s photos on his Instagram, and stories behind some of those photos. During this review, I’ll be going over the design and layout of the blog itself. Let’s dive right in.

Upon visiting the site, the front page doesn’t convey much information to the reader, so my first instinct is to scroll down. Considering the background is white, grey typography isn’t the most ideal color to be using. Perhaps switching to a more bold color or even the standard black would make it easier to read. Other than that, the actual content is easy to traverse through, as the posts contain many pictures to break up the text and make it easier to read. For a blog about visual art and storytelling, you can be sure you will get what you came for. The many photographs help the reader greatly in following along with the storytelling.

My next point brings me to the general layout of the navigation. I mentioned earlier how the front page doesn’t convey much. To elaborate, my eyes are caught on the “Hello Peeps”, and is continually drawn down to the green button. However, I don’t know anything about the site or the author, so I’m not very inclined to click it. Noticing there’s more content south of the opening real estate, I scroll down, further ignoring the menu bar. I would have preferred the menu bar be more visible, perhaps with a color that stands out to the reader. Navigation being an integral part of accessing the other parts of the site, giving it some attention would benefit the blog greatly.

The about biography could be moved to the very top, just below the menu, and swapped with the green “Preview My Visuals” button so that the reader will know what they’re getting into before pressing the button. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier about ‘real estate’, where its very important to hook your reader into your site. Even providing some of the photos from his Instagram along with a short description would give the readers a taste of what they can expect going into the blog itself, or even what Jesse is capable of as a photographer. Overall, the site seems very standard in its design, so I do hope to look forward to the development of Jesse’s blog.

If you’d like to know more about Jesse Finkle and his blog, go pay him a visit at: @jessefinkle.

Process Post #4 – Who is the reader?

This week, I’ve sat through readings and a lecture about what ‘publics’ and ‘public spheres’ are. In particular, Michael Warner’s Publics and Counterpublics states that a public is “a relationship among strangers”, and “Writing to a public incorporates that tendency of writing or speech as a condition of possibility / reaching strangers is its primary orientation.” On the fundamental level, he’s correct. Online blogging is basically addressing a bunch of people you may or may not know. But I just can’t agree with that. I want it to be much more than talking to a screen. Viewers of my website are inevitably going to be any number of strangers who form a “public” who view my content. But at the end of the day, the “public” is still comprised of individuals who are reading my content as individuals, and can respond to my content as individuals. So how is that any different from talking one-on-one with a real person? (Rhetorical, don’t answer that).

My writing have been described as “…not only fun to read but it seems like he is chatting and interacting with the reader in-person.” (Wan, C., 2017) and “a bit harsh, but honest.” (Hudnall, A., 2017).

Phew. Looks like the nature of my writing is getting across as I intended.

My goal is to tear down that barrier of being strangers as quickly as your eyes can read (or listen, I guess). So when I write, I do so as if speaking to an individual person, not by presenting a lecture or reading off of a script. It seems easier for me to convey my point across if I’m just thinking about talking with and individual, opposed to generically to a crowd . While it is unequivocally difficult to address an audience of various backgrounds, trying to connect to my readers seems to help in that regard. My words and phrasing don’t pull their punches (nor should they have to) mainly because I am unaware of the nature of the audience that I “should” be addressing. But when I know I’ve entertained or elicited a reaction from my reader, I know I’ve engaged my audience, and that I’m doing my job right.

Regarding the actual content of my blog, I purposely simplify some terminology to explain terms that may seem obvious to someone who plays a lot of games. Often times, at the beginning of my posts I’ll give a basic definition in my own words of the topic, to give the reader a baseline what my views are. This is so I can get everyone on the same page, no matter if you haven’t played a game in five or fifty years.

How Level Design Guides the Player

Level design is the general term used to describe the layout and design decisions behind an area in which the player has to traverse. More often than not, I will sometimes refer to levels as “maps”, as many instances of games don’t follow the tradition of progressing through “levels” of a game, or “levels” of a dungeon. These terms mean the same thing are generally interchangeable. Conscious decisions about level design are always present in a game, guiding the player’s decisions from behind the scenes. So without further ado, let’s jump right into an example.

Take Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. for the NES, and The Legend of Zelda, and pretend you’re playing the game for about ten seconds.

Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. (NES) World 1-1

Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

 

Done? So answer quick: What did you do?

Take a look at the first photo of Mario. Did you instinctively move to the right? Why? Where is Mario relative to the screen, and which way is he facing?

If you noticed, Mario starts on the left side of the screen, and faces to the right. Could this be a coincidence? I think not! Well, to be fair it could have been done on a whim and just worked out that way. But that decision effectively influenced how the player would act. Without explicitly explaining to the player: ‘hey, the objective is to the right, start moving to the right’, the player already knew what to do without anyone telling them. That’s the influence of level design.

Let’s hop on over to The Legend of Zelda, and ask yourself the same questions as above. How was this different? Well, there isn’t just one direction to go anymore. What direction is the main character facing? Did it matter? Probably not as much. In this case, you could probably say that the designer isn’t trying to guide its player. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Not at all.

Of course, there are deviations to the norm. You might have chosen to go left instead, or purposely stood in place, to see what would happen. But ultimately, your choice would have been the same or significantly similar.

So now, let’s compare the two different approaches to level design and compare them. On one hand, Mario’s level design is very constricted. The designer has obviously limited your means of choice, and is effectively directing you to where they want and where you should go. On the other hand, The Legend of Zelda had branching options with no visual or textual clues, essentially allowing the player to choose wherever they wanted to go. In this case, you could say that the designer subtly encouraging you to just go and explore the world.

Of course, level design isn’t limited to just these two strategies. There could be other visual cues that draw the player’s attention or different strategies altogether. It really depends on what the game is attempting to do. So pick a RPG of your choice, your favorite one, and ask yourself the same questions. Did you pick up on some things you hadn’t realized before?

There are other aspects of level design that I haven’t begun to delve into, but that’s for another time.

So until then, why not play one of the games aforementioned?

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Process Post #3 – Website Design

Website design decisions can be make or break for a website’s traffic of readers, and over the next five or so minutes it takes for you to read this post, I’ll be talking about a website I frequent, and one we all hold near and dear to us.

Source: http://www.posiel.com

Now, if you weren’t already already aware of Posiel, I’d suggest you sit down and think to yourself for a bit. Posiel is a website for students taking Publishing 101 at SFU, serving to inform its students (and potential ones) about what the course is really about, and what is to be expected. It is safe to say for a fact that Posiel sees to about roughly around forty-five different users on a consistent basis over the course of three months, with the numbers dropping every fourth month, according to my sources.

Source: SFU’s course scheduling center: http://go.sfu.ca/

You might ask: “What makes you want to visit a site like this?”

Well, let’s just say I conduct personal business on this website and leave it at that. So getting down to the design aspects of Posiel, I get kind of a feeling of ‘hypocrisy’ when looking upon its simplistic design, given that I am going to have to put in more effort into my own website. All things considered, my opinion is subjective, and I could be wrong (and certainly have been before). Granted, Posiel is a resource used by individuals for only a limited amount of time, it shouldn’t be lazy just because of the fact. But because it is simplistic, it makes the content very easy to read and navigate. In terms of balance, it certainly does its job, but could do away with a lot of the white space present on the page.

The website’s design is very uniform in the sense that all the navigation is available when sifting through different pages, allowing for easy access from one point to another. But one thing that bothers me, is the layout of the “Course Outline”. With the large amount of content on the page being in close proximity of just about everything else, it would be certainly easier to divide the content into different pages based on the week, or at least add a table of contents that allows the user to jump to the week of their choosing. These are just little nitpicks, and could easily be remedied by the above suggestions or CTRL + F, but who wants to do the extra work, right?

Each piece of content is spaced out properly, with each topic fitting nicely in the user’s screen without having to scroll. As mentioned earlier, the large amount of white space on the website makes it feel empty as a whole, and lacks “emphasis/importance, but also tension and emotions.” Pagé, M. (2017). Some Considerations on Web Design and Type on Screen. Retrieved from http://jones.uvm.edu/ppt/40hrenv/index.html. The same could be said of contrast, with the color scheme (while consistent), is used without variance. And consistency goes in hand with unity, making all the elements feel like they work together.

Overall, not a bad site per se, but would benefit from improvement. It establishes its own identity, and while it doesn’t make the greatest impression, would probably still be memorable if you asked someone who used the site about it. That’s all for now, so if you’d like to check out Posiel, I’d recommend doing so at http://www.posiel.com/


 

Overall, I was pretty happy with my website’s design as is, but decided to go the extra mile and draw my own background to better suit my website and give it a little personality. I’m no Michelangelo, but it’ll have to do. Because of how background images work, some of it got covered by my social media bar, which is a long giant rectangle that went along the bottom. So I just moved the social media buttons to the right sidebar. The website title being black, also got absorbed into the background, so that required me to go in and tweak the CSS a little to a different color to make it more visible. I decided to leave the default font on, not only due to laziness, but my experiences with game design having taught me that you can’t get stuck on all the minor details, otherwise you’ll never get anywhere.

 

 

Designing for Encounters

I define encounters being conflict point that can be resolved through the in-mechanics. If you don’t already know, I am working on my own game in the same ‘style’ as a JRPG. The reason I word it like that is because I’m not actually sure how to define genres like that, with myself not being Japanese nor is this game being made and released in Japan. I simply refer to it in the sense that storytelling is the main focus (but not always) of the game. This can involve battle mechanics to function as gameplay, but like before, doesn’t necessarily have to.

Now that the definition is out the way, I’m going to be talking about some of the kinds of battle encounters that occur in JRPGs, most specifically, the random encounter. I’ll be using the popular franchise, Pokémon. I grew up on Pokémon, having started with the very first game in black and white visuals, Pokémon Red version. If you’ve ever played or watched 20 minutes of any of the main Pokémon games, you’ll know how the encounter system works. Given that you walk into an encounter zone, there is a random chance a Pokémon will appear. Seems like pretty standard fare.

But random encounters are the bane of my existence. I hate them with a passion like you would not even imagine. Let’s look at the next image as an example.

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These critters known as Zubat is probably one of the most common Pokémon in the game, Now, in any Pokémon game, at one point or another, the player will have to traverse through a mountain or a cave with no exception (where else would Rock Pokémon live, right?). Now the thing is, instead of your typical grass tiles that signify that there are little critters hiding, the entirety of the map is a giant encounter zone. That means you can take literally two steps and bam, you’ve run into a Pokémon. The scenario that especially bothered me, was Pokémon Red’s Mt. Moon, the first cave the player HAS to traverse to get to a neighbouring town. And that’s where the Zubats come in. The cave itself fundamentally isn’t all that big, but when you’re being interrupted by Zubats every five seconds, it’s going to feel like a journey of a lifetime. Granted, there are items called “Repels” in the game which deter these random Pokémon encounters, but they don’t show up early enough in Pokémon Red to save you the heartache.

So why all the hub-bub about random encounters? Well the take-away here is that they break the flow of the game. Let’s imagine if you were building up to the climax of the story, and you’re about to face the villain for the battle of a lifetime. Alright, the exit’s right there, I’ll just- ‘A Wild Zubat appeared!’. No- just get out of here, I’m busy. Where was I? Right. The exit-  ‘A Wild Zubat appeared!’. rrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

So I swear to Arceus, if I have to run into ONE more Zubat, I will take my Nintendo handheld, and launch it into the bloody sun.

Now, there are a TON of great games have used random encounters as a way for the player to fight things outside of scripted events. But just because I’ve played through a game and enjoyed the game, doesn’t really make random encounters okay. It’s just that the game probably had other aspects that entice me more than the game play itself. So let’s take a look at Zeboyd Games’ Cthulhu Saves the World, a JRPG-styled game with random encounters- AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH- wait, after a certain amount of random encounters, I can turn them off?

Oh.

One of the great things that Cthulhu Saves the World does, is empower the player with choice. If players like me hate random encounters, the game allows you to adjust the encounter rate from anywhere between always and nothing at all. Given, you DO have to fight a set amount of them before you have the option to do so for that particular area. But it’s better than most, and I’ll take it. So am I going to implement a similar system in my own JRPG that I’m making? Hell no. But I can take away from Cthulhu Saves the World, that I can empower my players to have a choice. So, while the majority of combat is just going to be scripted events (you’re going to fight when it’s necessary), I will provide the players out there who do enjoy a little grinding, with some repeatable battles spread throughout the world. I just don’t want to subject my players to the horrors of Zubat encounters, nor the necessity of grinding. I should really do a piece about player choice.

Zeboyd Games’ Cthulhu Saves the World is a really neat game that I’d recommend, with a rather amusing premise if you haven’t already noticed from the title. If you don’t know who/what Cthulhu is, he’s sort of a horror-esque entity with the idea that he’s more of a concept of something so much beyond the player’s control or understanding rather than being a big baddie that you have to fight. And you get to play as him. For three dollars, I’d recommend it if you want some humor and some JRPG experience in your life.

Until next time.

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What Makes Good Quest Design?

Last time, we talked about bad quest design, and how many common design aspects occur in so many MMORPGs. So what is the solution to creating good quest? Despite all my complaining earlier about what I don’t like about certain quest designs, there isn’t really a definitive solution I have to create meaningful quests.That kind of makes me a hypocrite. Whoops. But I do have ideas on how to take the first steps!

To recap, the main issue I had with bad quest design is the blandness and genericism that comes with creating several hundred quests for the sake of being progression points. The point I want to get across, is that they don’t HAVE to be bland progression points. For a quest or task to hold importance, it should do one or more of at least three things: provide some form of  information about the story, develop/explain the characters in some manner, or talk about the world in which the characters inhabit. Do all quests have to do this? Certainly not! But it goes a long way in creating a sense of immersion in the game. If the dialogue doesn’t aim to serve a purpose, then why would the writer or the player waste time on reading it?

Let’s take a look at a good example, using the game The Witcher 3, of a commonly occurring task, and we’ll call it, “The kill quest”. This quest happens at the very beginning of the game, and is probably the first quest the player will encounter. Since it’s a moderately lengthy quest, I’ll only be touching on very brief points of it.

The protagonist runs into the key monster before the quest even begins, and later learns that in order to get what he wants, he’ll have to kill the monster he ran into earlier. A seemingly simple enough task. But what The Witcher does excellently, is creating a build-up. No one knows where the monster went, so the protagonist has to enlist the help of the local hunter in order to track it. Upon finding the hunter, you can choose to get straight down to business, or you can ask why a hunter of his caliber is doing in a backwater village. Upon asking, the protagonist learns that the hunter used to serve under a lord, but was in a homosexual relationship with the lord’s son. However, their relationship being discovered, the son hanged himself, the hunter was banished, and the lord’s estate fell in ruin. The conversation ends, you investigate traces of the monster’s killings, and you fight the monster in the end.

Source: https://t00.deviantart.net/z7K66GzV4EdGPmIMaQplq3-2mws=/fit-in/700x350/filters:fixed_height(100,100):origin()/pre11/aaa1/th/pre/f/2016/310/d/0/geralt_and_mislav_by_vollhov-danjuyi.png

Now, you might be asking, what the hell did any of that have to do with killing monsters?

Well, nothing. But the conversation between the hunter and the protagonists cues the player into what kind of world they’re entering, subtly explaining the vicious degree of homophobia that exists within the world of The Witcher. While homosexuality isn’t a theme explored at all in The Witcher, you just learned something that wasn’t thrown at you in a book you had to read or a wall of text from a character. You discovered it by exploring the world and talking with its inhabitants. All of this was explained in the span of five minutes in the game, and you never really interact with the hunter after this quest. But you learned more about the hunter and his background, developing him into a more memorable character than just some ‘Side Character A’.

So what have we learned so far?

Quests don’t just have be simple matters of affairs; they can tell little stories of their own. The experiences of talking with the hunter humanizes him as a character, breathing life into an otherwise ordinary character. This ‘Kill Quest’ covered all of the three important points I mentioned above, in what I believe is important for a quest. Despite being little details in the grand scope of the game, they serve to enrich the experience, and entices the player to want to know more about the world they’re inhabiting. The Witcher could’ve just told the player to ‘go point x, and then kill the monster’, but by making the player need to track down the monster and viewing what it is capable of, it makes the creatures feel elusive and dangerous by the time you actually have to fight the monster. By making the player go through seemingly ‘extraneous’ steps the resolution is only that much more satisfying.

I highly recommend The Witcher 3, an excellent experience to behold, even if you’re a new entrant into the series.

Until next time.

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