An Analysis of the Underlying Principles of Game Design

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Task 1

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Game Review: Halo Reach

Game Review: Saints Row: The Third

Task 2

Task 3

Task 1

Visual Styles:

What are visual styles?

Visual styles relate to how the game looks in terms of the player's perspective (of the player to the screen). The visual styles of a game are crucial during the design phase because high-quality graphics are highly valued by the modern gamer. These high quality graphics are expected to remain for the life of the game. Visual styles encompass how a game looks in terms of design. Essentially, it is the visual qualities of the game, the appearance of NPCs / the avatar model for the player, any sort of video or cutscenes that are used in the game and the perspective or the view in terms of the how a player is able to see the game whilst playing a level.

There are various visual styles that can be taken into consideration whilst a game is being developed or conceptualised. These visual styles are crucial towards the looks of the game. These visual styles include:

The game world: In order to draw the player in towards the game, their respective game designers, must be able to create a world in which the player is immersed in. A good game world is normally very appealing to the player’s eye and it is also visually enticing to the player. The game world encompasses the terrain, architecture and object of a game.

Terrain: This is the way the landscape has been designed in which the player proceeds through. The terrain within the game is, simply the ground that the player can walk on whilst in the game. The terrain within a game ranges from a concrete floor, to water. For an effective game, different terrain styles are used in order to enhance the immersive experience for the player which in-turn enhances the visual styles of the game. The type of terrain needed is dependent on the range of navigation that is required. Common types of terrain include:

  • Top-down games: These games only allow the user to look down at the map and don’t have to deal with long distances.
  • Unconstrained ground games: These games allow the player to look up and down and get as close as possible to the surface. It is obligatory that this type of game is to allow a wide range of distances and a level of detail some games have a third-person perspective display mode but also allow the same navigational freedom as a 1st-person perspective.
  • Unconstrained air games: These games are similar to unconstrained ground games; however, they don’t have to deal with applying accuracy or detail towards the scenery or objects.

Architecture: Whilst designing the game, the game designers will have to include some sort of architecture in the game to enhance the visual styles of the game and to also enhance the immersive experience. The architecture of a game is essentially all structures such as buildings, bridges or monuments in the game. It is crucial that the architectural design correlates with the style of the game world. For example, the architecture of a 2-D game will have to have 2-D models, whereas the architecture of a 3-D game will have to have 3-D models.

Objects: A set of objects are in-game items that the main character or the NPCs can interact with. Objects range from guns, swords, flowers or even a post box. It is normally the main character (the player) who is able to collect objects and store them in the inventory. In some cases, objects within the game can give the character a specific skill or ability. It is imperative that the visual style of the object matches the game world setting. For example a game set in a steam-punk setting will have to contain objects that correlate with steam-punk style or a game set in the future will have to have futuristic objects within the game.

Characters and NPCs: One of the main reasons for the succession of any game will be because the design of the main playable character(s) is visually appealing to the user. It is crucial that when designing the character, there is a vast amount of game sprites which encompasses all movements (including actions made by the player) that will be able to performed in the game by the player. A good character design is essential in order to allow the game to stand the test of time. This means that even after so long, the character is a recognisable figure (for example: Mario, Sonic and Pac-Man) and each time the same game is released, it has better graphics and a better range of movement than before. The visual styles of the NPCs are equally as important as the design of the game setting NPC has to correlate with the game world setting and the same goes for the main character in terms of clothes that the main character wears and the objects that the character has with him/her. In terms of hostile characters, the graphic quality of the enemy character must also have similar graphic qualities to that of the main character.

Feedback Interface: In a game, there should be continual visual feedback about the state of the system. For example, if the player interacts with something, it should move a particular way, preview a specific quality within the system or make a noise. This is all dependent on what the developer has coded into the game or if something is destroyed or thrown away, it should vanish or fade away with some sort of animation. The feedback interface is present in the game so that the player is not in doubt about the current state of the system. In terms of game development, at the point when the designer is outlining the visual style of the game, it is imperative for them to look into the data that is required to supply the player during gameplay. The feedback-interface, generally known as the “heads-up” display needs to have the capacity to show the player's present position and their advancement inside the game. For example, an in-game mini-map would be considered as a feedback interface.

Perspective: The perspective/ view that the player will have must be considered during the design phase of a game. Simple games utilise a 2-D side view to show the player moving around in the game world are called side scrolling games. Over a decade ago, all games had a view of only 2 dimensions. This is especially notable in side scrolling games and single screen games. 3-D games normally allow the player to change perspective displays in the game (e.g. 1st person to 3rd person). You have the choice of 3 perspectives. Some games limit how many perspectives you are allowed to have in a game. These perspectives are:

  • 1st person perspective: This is when you play whilst looking through the eyes of our character.
  • 3rd person perspective: This is when your view is behind the character’s avatar so that you can see the whole character in front of you
  • Bird’s eye or helicopter perspective: Some games utilise the bird’s eye/helicopter perspective display, which is essentially when you are looking at a downward angle to your character.

Full Motion Video (FMV): Full motion video is feature footage or a video which is utilised inside the game. They are more commonly called cutscenes. In the newest computer games, cutscenes have almost become mandatory to use in most games. In other games where choice is the main objective of the game, the player will have to make decisions based on the cutscenes or footage they are shown. Full motion animation videos enhance the visual styles of a game as the cutscenes allow the player to be even more immersed in the game. Full movement feature contrasts from real-time cutscenes as real-time cutscenes have to render the game environment generally as in the game that is currently being played (for example a player wearing a specific set of clothing will be wearing the same clothes or if a player has been customised a specific way will appear the same in the cutscene with all of those customised features) whereas a full motion video has already been pre-recorded.

Gameplay:

What is gameplay?

Gameplay is what encompasses how a player is able to move through the game world which likewise incorporates how the game has been composed in such a way, to the point that it makes the player think and feel and to additionally translates intricate game rules and game mechanics to make the game feel as practical and realistic as possible as it can be. There are many instances of gameplay that you need to look at when designing a game. These instances are:

Interaction Model: Whilst designing a game, it is vital to consider how the player can be controlled in a particular manner and how the player will be represented in the game. This is what is acknowledged as the interaction model. There are 2 models of making a player interact with the game world. The first principal model is to utilise the game avatar interaction model when the player is characterised on the screen by the main character's model and the center of focus of the game spins around how the main character (controlled by the player) travels around the game world. The second system is the "omnipresence" interaction model which is utilised when the character needs to control a gathering of other characters (normally a party of NPCs or other players) inside the game or even the fact that when the character has to directly communicate/interact with the game world and make changes or improvements to the world.

Game Setting: During the design phase for gameplay, the game designers must think about the setting of the game in terms of lore behind the game. This includes where the events in the game take place and how the player will be able to interact with the system. It needs to be clear that the game is set in the right time period during gameplay. For example if you have a game set in the high-tech future with aliens, lasers and battle ships, you would need to design the game with a futuristic look. When you design the game you have to think realistically about each aspect of the game time wise. For example, if you set your game in the future where humanity fights using exo-suits, then you wouldn’t expect an alien or a knight from the medieval times to appear whilst playing the game. You also have to take into consideration the environmental and the emotional settings whilst developing the game. For example, if your character is male and has lost his family to a murderer and he’s set on revenge, you wouldn’t expect the game to have rainbows, perfect weather and happy people to be shown in game; you’d expect the game to be dark and gloomy whilst the people look negative. The setting of the game always has to be age appropriate.

Narrative: A narrative is used as the story telling part of games. Normally, the narrative is regularly inserted in cutscenes to show what goals that need to be completed. It can likewise be as a major aspect of unique NPC dialog (in open world games that don't have cutscenes e.g. MMO games). A narrative can also develop during gameplay, which is subject to the player's progress in the game. The game narrative is mainly linked to the feedback interface and the full motion video as far as visual style which will tell the player what is at present occurring or what event has officially taken place. A narrative can take many forms which can be through graphical methods, textual methods or even audible methods whilst immersed in gameplay.

Single player and multiplayer: Single player mode is what allows the player to progress through the game by themselves competing against the in-game AI instead of competing with other players. They can also interact better with NPCs and objects within the game world as there is more space for NPC dialogue and better quality objects. The single player mode was the easiest to develop for game developers so it was more common for the early games to be single player. As technological advancements were made, players were able to play with other players within the same game world. This was later known as multiplayer gaming.

Goals, Challenges and Rewards: Within every game, there is always some sort of goal to complete and there is definitely always a challenge when trying to complete that goal. Some basic games have only 1 goal like get from point A to B and other, more complex games have many goals. MMO games and RPG games are examples of games with many goals to complete. Goals are referred to as “quests” or “objectives”. This is dependent on the setting of the game. For example, if you are playing a game set in the medieval time or a steam punk setting, you would refer to goals as quests or if you’re playing a shooter game, you would refer to the goals as objectives. Having more goals in a game enhances the gaming experience overall and it makes the player even more addicted to the game. In certain RPG games, you have a main quest with main rewards and you have sub-quests with rewards that range from rare to minor rewards. The point is that in those kinds of games, you can set out to do one thing and then you would end up doing 10 other things that aren’t related to what you set out to do. Some of the most common rewards are XP points/Experience points, item drops and skill/ability rewards. These are effective in a game as they motivate the player to play more and more for more experience points or item drops and so it creates a sense of motivation for the player. Although this is true, the engine of the game more importantly the system must be able to handle all of the goals, challenges and rewards.

Difficulty and balance: The difficulty of the game needs to accommodate the player’s skill level so the level of difficulty has to be set either automatically by the system or it has to be set manually by the player (mainly at the start of the game). Balance is associated with the difficulty settings. In order to achieve a good balance, Modern games are designed in such a way that the game starts off slightly easier so that the player is able to build the skills necessary to progress through successive levels.

Feedback: Feedback is provided to the player during and after the game which informs the player bout their performance in the game. This is connected to the uses of feedback interfaces and narratives as they show the player their progress through the whole time while they are gaming. Graphical feedback is given when a player performs an action. For example, if you shoot an object such as a street sign, the graphical feedback from that action should show the bullet hitting the sign and a short burst of sparks should fly out from the sign. Audio feedback should also be given to the player to inform them of what their actions have caused. For example, a player could have swung a sword at the ground and the result is the sound of metal hitting the floor.

Game structure: During the planning stage, all the processes that will be done in the game needs to be structured in a logical way so that the programmers have a visual representation of the processes that will take place within the game. In order to do this they will have to make a structured program flowchart so that they can essentially make it easier for themselves.

Addiction: Despite the fact that addiction to a game is seen as unhealthy for people, it is this sole element of gameplay that makes a game successful. This is because the game will have made the player want to come back more and more to the game and this is good because if the company decides to release another game with a similar title, the people that are addicted to the game would jump at the opportunity to buy the next game. The point of an immersive experience is to pull the player into a world that they can only fantasise about; where they can do almost anything like they own that world. It is this that gets a player hooked onto the game which eventually makes them addicted to the game.

Game Review: Halo Reach

Halo reach is an Xbox 360 exclusive 1st person shooter game. The game features both single and multiplayer. The game is set in the year 2552 and it takes place 27 years into a major event which is known as “The Great War” which is a large-scale interstellar war between the Unified Earth Government and the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) and an alien alliance known as the covenant empire. The game is set on a human planet called reach which is home to the iconic super soldiers known as Spartans. The covenant invades the planet and bit by bit the UNSC is losing control of the planet. For the duration of the game, you follow the narrative of the Spartan team known as the Noble team; a special team of 6 mainly consisting of Spartan mark-III and one Spartan mark-II. Shortly after losing one of their team members your character, Noble 6 replaces his fallen comrade. Not much is known about 6’s past except he’s a lone wolf on the frontlines. The game follows Noble 6 and his Spartan brethren as they try to delay the inevitable. The destruction of their homeland. The fall of reach. In this game, there are many NPCs in which, most of them are hostile. The design of all the NPCs is very detailed in the sense that they were good for the graphics in 2010. In terms of the single player story mode, the purpose of the game is (if you relate it to the story) to slow down the covenant empire. To do this you have to travel across Reach and into the heavily populated areas of covenant and you have to clear out as many of them as you can whilst disabling their communication arrays, destroying all of their ground mounted super weapons and keeping the covenant from progressing any further than they already have progressed. In terms of multiplayer, there are a lot of activities to partake in. The main activities are: Infection (where one person starts off as the infected and tries to infect everyone else), big team battle (a 12v12 match off against the red team and the blue team), SWAT (4v4 match with no shields or high powered weapons just a pistol and a battle rifle) and capture the flag (8v8 match to capture each other’s flags until the match is over. Normally lasts 20-25 minutes) these game modes are effective as they allow the player to interact with other players around the world and work with them to achieve victory. There are many rewards that are given out in both single and multiplayer. Every week, 343 industries (the new owners of halo reach) put out weekly challenges; each challenge harder than the last to earn credits which the automatically boosts the player towards the next rank and they can use the credits to buy armour pieces that they can customise their character with. The good thing about this is that you can also see your customised character in the cutscenes of the single player cut scenes. You also receive medals for each match or level you play in the game. The game is a 1st person shooter which makes it hard to see enemies from behind you and above you as you can get assassinated if you let your guard down. The game is very addictive in terms of gameplay and multiplayer because you have so many things to do such as weekly challenges, monthly tournaments and levels to rank up

Game review: Saints Row: The Third:

Task 3

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Game Review: Saints Row: The Third

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