Posted on July 11, 2012 AT 06:41pm
This is an article based on discussions I have had in the past, with my fellow geeks and gamers.
I begin with the hardware, as the ability to experience video games of this generation wouldn’t exist without the PS3, XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii and the now the Wii U. Each of these consoles have their selling points, depending on what games people like to play or what they think a console should be or what it should do. Now in my opinion I like the PS3, because of the free online, Blu Ray movies and the exclusive titles. This is just my preference. While the Xbox 360 does offer HD movies, most are only rent and I like to own my films. Also the online isn’t that much better in my opinion, to be worth paying for. To be clear this is the first and last time I will mention the Nintendo Wii, I have no interest in it as a console or the games it offers.
Games, games, games. That is what it’s all about. From the Michael Bay-esque action of Call of Duty, the western frontier of Red Dead Redemption, and the under-water metropolis of Bioshock. So far this generation has seen some fantastically amazing, entertaining, thrilling, emotional, exciting and sometimes dreadfully disappointing video games. The main reasons I play video games is the story and the best stories of this generation, in my opinion, have been Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted 3 and Mass Effect 2. This is because of the characters involved, the actual narrative and just the overall experience they offered. Take for example Mass Effect 2 and that incredible set piece intro, which shocked me as I didn’t know what to expect. Watching a character which I liked, die no matter what I did, was a bold move from Bioware. Then seeing the body hurled like a rag doll out of the ship into deep space as he struggles to breathe and then seeing his body slowly become lifeless. This kind of shock tactic is a good test to see how people react to the events in a game.
Before you read any further I need to issue spoiler warnings for Uncharted 3 and Red Dead Redemption. If you haven’t played these titles, I recommend you stop reading. In the lead up to the release of Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception we were told by Naughty Dog that the game would be about the relationship between Sully and Drake. To begin with I was nervous about how the mentor-student relationship would unfold because in the trailer in which Sully says to Drake, “I taught you better than that.” I was concerned because cracks were showing between our two heroes. Near the end of the game, you find the Atlantis of the Sands and there appears to be a moment of rest for the weary travellers. Drake drinks from a fountain, an eclipse occurs and then something happens which left me momentarily stunned.
You hear a gunshot, the look of shock on our heroes faces, then Sully drops to the ground and you see Talbot holding the rifle in the distance. The next thing we see is what shocked me most as you see Sully’s lifeless face, as Drake is unable to save the life of his friend. I can honestly say this angered me, made determined to go on and fight the good fight. Every time I killed an enemy from this point on I was saying, “Die motherf*****r!” or “HA! Die!”. With that in mind, imagine my surprise when out of nowhere two enemies get killed and a cut-scene follows. It’s then you discover that Sully hadn’t died and that Drake was hallucinating. I then stopped playing the game for a moment, thought about what happened and realized how clever the writers of this game really had been. They have you experience this relationship through all its hardships over three games, have it pushed to the brink, seemingly end it and then in the moment of hopelessness offer a ray of light. If Naughty Dog wanted an emotional reaction they sure as hell got one and it is still something I think about as it was quite profound. This was also apparent in Red Dead Redemption as this had an ingenious twist in which the main character actually dies. John Marston spends the game doing work for federal agents in a bid to get revenge on the man who betrayed him. When you do get revenge, you are able to go back to your family and help around the ranch. I thought nothing of it at first but when uncle looks down the telescope and sees soldiers on the horizon, I was worried about how events would unfold. Uncle is killed, Marston makes sure his family is safe and takes refuge in the barn.
He then makes a choice to face the enemy, the barn doors open and the camera goes in to quick draw. I remember holding my breath in anticipation as you take aim, pull the trigger and watch helplessly as he is killed. Its then the game jumps ahead several years and you take control of Jack, John Marsten’s son. When the mission starts to track the federal agent who killed John, I found I was really determined to find him. I first found his wife to locate where the federal agent was, when she told me, I shot her in the face because I was genuinely angry. Next I wound up finding his brother and emptied my shotgun into his head. When I found the federal agent himself my decision was to have a bit of fun, so I failed the mission by shooting at him. I then lassoed him, took him to a cliff and rolled him off it. I then found his body at the bottom and emptied all of my guns into him. I was so angry with what he had done to a character I had come to like. It’s crazy to think that a game had this affect but the characters were so well thought out and seemed so genuine. It was a stroke of genius on the part of Rockstar.
The reason I think this worked is because of how convincing the acting was and how it was achieved. It’s widely known that motion capture was used in Uncharted 3 and it’s paid off in more ways than one. Not only do you get the voice work but you also get the characters reacting to each other. This helps a great deal because when you have actors working together over the course of three games, you get the feeling that the characters really do know each other.
Go here to listen to my interview with Taylor Kurosaki, the cinematic production lead of Naughtydog - http://www.digitalnoob.com/podcasts/interview-taylor-kurosaki-cinematic-production-lead-naughty-dog/
However this doesn’t always make a game more immerse or a rewarding experience. I mentioned earlier, dreadfully disappointing games and so I bring your attention to LA Noire. The selling point of this game was the facial animation which was achieved with motion capture. While the technology was impressive, it seemed the only reason this game existed was to demonstrate the technology to gamers and other people in the industry. The other aspects of the game such as a crime scene being searched for clues or interrogating a suspect did not immerse me at all. The only way that motion capture is going to be seen as a cost effective tool, is when it’s used for a good reason like in the Uncharted series. If it’s going to be used for the sake of it or just being a novelty to sell a game, it’s going to be cast aside.
One thing that is becoming more apparent in video games is digital distribution and it’s some peoples’ main way of purchasing games. It’s so much quicker, more convenient and I think it would be good thing if it became the main way we purchase games. Why you ask? Well, it means the money from the games go to the developers as it takes out the concern of used games. Not one penny or cent from used games sales goes to the developer. However, if we buy games on demand all the money goes to the developer, which means developers can continue to make games and that is good for everyone.
However it could mean that publishers become greedier than they already are. Hello Activision. I bring your attention in a direct yet subtle way to DLC and online passes. It seemed a cool idea to expand the story in a game like Alan Wake, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and Red Dead Redemption. Now I feel like we are getting games released earlier than they need to be and then being completed with DLC content after the release. Take LA Noire for example. It was released ahead of down-loadable cases, which seemed interesting but nothing that made me go OMFG! Surely Rockstar and Team Bondi could’ve waited to release game with the content as part of it. They probably could have but they had dollar signs in their eyeballs. What is becoming annoying is that sometimes you pay for DLC which is already on the disk. When you pay for a new game, you pay for the disk the game is on thus expecting the ability to access everything on it. You can see if it’s already on the disk as the file will only be a few hundred Kilobytes (KB), one thousand of these equates to 1 Megabyte (MB). Take a look the next time you download DLC for a game. As far as online passes go, well I support it but if you choose to rent a game, you should be given access to the online features during the rental period.
So these are thoughts of video games as they are today. Please feel free to give feedback, positive or negative.
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