Tag Archives: Games

Novelty is the name of the game

Everything is composed of systems; interconnected and interacting. And each of this systems are designed and governed by specific set of rules. If you know the rules, you know the system. Sometimes rule-set can be exhaustively large and complex which will, in turn, increase the complexity of the system itself. Break it down to small chunk of systems and you find out more specific relevant rule-set for smaller systems. Our mind is evolved to understand such systems in peculiar way of creating the model of the system rather than actually solving rules by which it is governed. Let’s take example. Lionel Messi’s brain not always go into resolving friction equations or movement of round object in curvature to have quick pass or amazing goal; Or Federer’s mind won’t do all force formulas to quickly come up with number to use in back-end shot, nor their, or in such case anyone else, minds capable of finishing calculations on the fly. Minds just do what they supposed to do “as per learned model” which in turn needs regressive learn pattern.

Why I have elaborated so much was the phenomenon gamers worldwide face in their day-to-day gaming sessions. Games are most prolific “systems” which gamers learn to play. Each new game present new set of rules to learn. Game designers face most daunting task of devising the system driven by elaborated rule-set, make users learn them fast, mold their minds to think with provided rules and along with all;most sought accomplishment; make it all fun and enjoyable. Some games fail due to one or other of above. And some excel with the same. Let’s explore few of the games in my gaming life which has garnered the awe-inspiring amazement along with joy due to their unique appealing trait: novelty (in no particular order).

1. Braid ( Creator: Jonathan Blow, Artist: David Hellman )

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There are puzzle platformer. There are excellent puzzle platformers. And there is Braid. Uniqueness of the Braid was not time-manupulation, but the way each level introduces new aspect based on time. Starting with fairly straightforward time reversal, Braid just pulled all kind of time-trickery in the each advancing level. One level adds time-unaffacted objects, while other introduces “time-ring”. And my favorite one where time moves when protagonist moves. Without spoiling much novelty (especially the last absolutely genius level), Braid has achieved cult status with its underlying deep philosophy which was fan-favorite discussion topic amongst various forums.

Also Braid had been the flagstone of revolution which has moved gamers focus on indie development like never before.

2. Her Story ( Creator & designer: Sam Barlow, Actress: Viva Seifert )

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Gaming industry is always fascinated with idea of merging movies with gameplay from initiation of digital interactivity. FMV ( Full Motion Video) games were at some point considered as major step ahead while era was mostly composed of low res sprites and environments. Tex Murphy adventures or Phantasmagoria were few series which got attention for their novel FMV interactivity. Most recent Late Shift or partial FMV AAA title Quantum Break are testimony of gaming industry’s unabated love for integration of full motion video in games. But nothing has succeeded so profoundly as Her Story which has changed the idea of FMV gameplay. Best part of Her Story is that FMV seems the inevitable design aspect rather than just another “back of the box bullet-point”. Brainchild of sole person; Sam Barlow and exquisitely acted by Viva Seifert, Her Story puts you in shoes of investigator trying to glean the connection out of disjointed interrogation videos of old case. Not spoiling much, Her Story is addictive short campaign.

3. Untold Stories ( Developer: No Code, Publisher: Devolver Digital )

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Most ancient genre of gaming which is again getting traction due to most innovative take like Untold stories on them; text adventures. Untold stories has coat of new graphic processing power but core element is text adventure. Short, precise and genuine ; Untold stories is pinnacle presenting “New wine in old bottle”.

4. Portal/Portal 2 ( Valve corporation )

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In 2007, at the most ripening time to reap the popularity benefit, Valve released most audacious game bundle of all time called ” The Orange Box”. Riding high with Half-Life 2 and preceding episodic instalments, Orange Box was going to provide most value for money playtime to gamers. Valve Corporation knew it was going to be hit. But what it never gleaned was that the small title thrown in; almost like Santa’s small free present, along with other biggies in the Orange Box, called Portal, was going to steal the show and going to force Valve to cash in with its follow-up, Portal 2.

To say that Portal was ingenious first person puzzler is disservice to the game as whole. It was cleverly designed to incorporate Portal rules and way of overcoming them. Concept was simple enough to have ability to generate two portals on any (not all though) flat surfaces so as player passing through one emerges out of other. Throw in exemplary physics engine to take care of gravity and hence velocity out of other portal and you have sandbox rule set to play around.

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Portal 2 has high expectations given the popularity of the first. But so rare the event in this world in any media has happened here also; second part surpassing the first. Once Portal 2 introduces the varying gels, rules got more complex and playful.

However intelligent gamers felt by solving the puzzles in Portal and Portal 2, one fact was appreciated by all that at the end game designers of both were true genius of all. After completing the game, if you look back you’ll realize how much complexity your brain has gone through and that also in very simple and fun way.

Kudos to games.

PopCon, IN, USA 2017

Being present at two pop culture events 8203 miles apart (miles!!! Yes. I’m in USA now) in the same year; both generating the polar opposite emotional response in a manner representing their geological diversity along with distance quoted above, could also be classified as event itself. While the former was tepid, same, boring with few exceptional burst of joy (check the blog here), other was stuffed to the brim with nostalgic, modern, novel and absolute maddening fan service events to the point of bursting out.

Above para also explained the dormancy of my blog for so long. First event I mentioned was ComicCon 2017, Pune, India while the other is PopCon 2017, Indianapolis, USA. Last week I got chance to visit the same during my probably long future working sojourn in USA.

Before I proceed further, first check out below amazing display of Cosplay culture presented by visitors. Please bear the fact that it was such classic display of geekiness which acts as an energy induced plasma to make the fun event more energetic besides professional Cosplayers.

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Merchandise galore; what was more prominent was the milieu of artists and writers of the pop culture world with their latest and best. With pack line of famous artists and TV stars available for signing events along with chit-chat with their devoted fans to you-tubers and twitch channel artists marketing their prowess in digital world what made the PopCon event true to its name.

If I have to describe the event in single word, I would shout “Nostalgia”. Rows of Arcade machines staked up for young generation to gobble up retro-feeling in large area was one of the prime attraction. Stores selling old Gameboys along with prized old titled cartridges along with comic vendors selling old comic runs 1$ each was meant for collectors and aficionados alike. In one large corner I saw rows of players getting their hands on most primeval way of gaming: Board-games. Hexagonal dice and character sheets of Settlers to D&D to civilization, played equal part role with massive rooms dedicated to competitive gaming on large with CoD, Overwatch and many more to entertain the mass. It was enchanted amalgamation of old and new.

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For me, event reached its nerd peak when I found the store of Troma movies along with none other than Lloyd Kaufman himself (I also picked up two movies personally signed by him). Troma movie is the satirical mixture of overtly used grindhouse, splatter, sex, nudity, violence and other 50’s themes in almost superficially farcical way.

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I bought Gaiman to Teen-Horror “Tomie” to R rated Troma movies

The event regarding to pop culture won’t have Star Wars fans is always unusual and hence a whole Star Wars section was dedicated to their fans to get their universe together. Separate section was having Yo-Yo tricks competition for kids and young ones. Indie game developers also got their chance to showcase upcoming or in-development titles to get instant user feedback.

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Yes, Force wants you to join next time.

I would like to end reporting on such spectacular event on its most prominent note which make it unique; uniqueness itself, whether among people who make them differ to established social norms or artists who made their own niche against usual career approaches. These people are rare and unique. Most of the time hiding their instincts against pressure of outer world and due to aloofness but when come to such event they found out that there is lot many like him/her. Let’s not differ. Let’s celebrate. Kudos to fan’s CosPlay for such boldness.

Till next event……………………….

 

Game on…

Numbers are dry; drier than the Sahara desert. But at the same time, as all statisticians and analysts agree, numbers are the perfect lenses to observe the trend and future predictions. Best way to click the perfect picture and see what is out of focus and what caught the center of frame for any business trends and market in general. Every year ESA (Entertainment Software Association) come out with data encompassing sales, demographic and usage in terms of entertainment software, in short, gaming. I blogged about it before here with my own insights. After almost 2 year back let’s take measure again and see how deep the rabbit hole is. Let’s start.

Average game player age is 35 indicates that I have a couple of years more before I go out of the league. Though the fact that 26% gamers are 50+ years; almost catching up with younger competitors (Under 18 years-27%) and prime age personas(18-35 years-29%). I have all the sympathy with mid-life crisis sufferers (36-49 Years-18%).

Gender demographic is almost equally balanced with obvious minor lead for male (59%) over female (41%).

52% gamers believe that games are better over Movies, DVDs, Music etc. when it comes to value for money. And I completely agree with them. Take example of Witcher 3: Wild Hunt from Polish developer CD Project RED. Even though I pre-ordered and bought all DLC without discounted price, the main game contents itself spanning over 200-300+ hours of game-play excluding DLCs and other tons of goodies. Combine that with AAA quality graphics and RPG engagement and it will be free deal on sale prices.

48% gamers are social gamers. Now that is very contradicting statement when you use “social” and “gamer” in single statement. But I think this is because of lot many co-op and family games available nowadays on console as well as on mobile platforms. It shows smartphones share 36% of all gaming devices with my favorite PC topping the chart with share of 56%.

In terms of co-op, gamers still prefer to have friends at their side rather than family members, parents and spouse/GF/BF in that particular order of receding preference. However anti-social still most of the world believe games are, 51% gamers believe that games help them connect to their friends on regular basis. However anti-educational still most of the world believe games are, 75% gamers believe that games are more mentally stimulant and educational than other “stuff”.

As predicted 2 years back in similar kind of post here, VR is the next in thing for future gaming. Considering 40% gamers ready to buy VR devices in one or the other way, it’s becoming “game” changing scenarios for future developments.

Only 11% M-ratings games compared to 37% E-rating in the year of 2016 also shows how diverse the gaming is becoming. And why the rise of family games. Gaming has stopped becoming geeky-business anymore. There is also shift in accepting the effects of gaming on child’s upbringing. 68% parents believe that it’s positive part of the life. 62% parents themselves participate in gaming sessions with their offspring.

Shooter and action genre still dominate almost 45% of all the genre available on the market. But when it comes to PC, strategy is topmost choice for 34.4% gamers. Notably RPGs also occupying 18.7% share in terms of PC gaming. It’s always difficult to play strategy and RPG without keyboard/mouse combo.

As support to my previous consumerism blog, data shows that 18% gamers buy game titles if it belongs to some continuing series or looks familiar. Though still biggest factor in influencing the consumption is price: 21%. That explains peak buying during winter/summer/autumn sales going on all the time on digital distribution sites. Quality of graphics has lost its charm though with all the new Indie but well-designed and immaculately conceived ideas. No need to have life-like graphics to get immersion.

Total consumer spend in the year of 2015 is 23.6bn $. No need to say that digital format is the best deal for distributors. Comparing to 2010 where physical format was having its golden days with 71% market share, now, in 2015 it’s reduced to mere 44%.

Magical future still awaits. No one has predicted that future holds such fantasy as living and playing out your dreams literally.

References:

http://www.theesa.com/article/2016-essential-facts-about-the-computer-and-video-game-industry/

http://www.theesa.com/

http://www.theesa.com/article/more-than-40-million-americans-age-50-plus-play-video-games/