Kelgray and Beyond

int game_engine(void) {

Video Game Influenced Psychology

Well it’s been a while I know, but I am indeed alive, just busy with SAIT, design, spinning, and learning XNA Games Studio Express to use with Crowded Games, but I’ve been hit with inspiration and I needed a place to voice my opinions so I’m back with the bloging. What I’ve been thinking about is the reasons that my behaviour follows certain patterns, and how those behaviours came to be. More specifically, I noticed that I’d been doing a lot of work for school which either wasn’t for marks or which wasn’t due for a long time, even though I did have projects with more pressing deadlines. I first noticed it when I wrote a fairly lengthly response in the Business Relations forums to a post which was optional, but had not yet responded to the one which I was supposed to have done earlier but hadn’t been able to do since I didn’t have access to the forums until just recently.

The two tasks weren’t all that different. They probably took about the same amount of brain power and effort,
and yet I did the less important one before the important one. Once I started thinking about it I began to see all sorts of similar activities. Working on my programming assignment which hasn’t even been assigned yet before the small activity that we were asked to do for next class. In each case I did meet my deadline, but in each case I procrastinated on the more pressing material and focused on the optional things. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t do this all the time (I’m not that much of a procrastinator), it only seems to happen in cases where I have plenty of time available before my deadline comes, but in those cases it seems to happen often.

As I explored the question further, I began to see similar behaviour in a lot of my friends and colleagues, though it seemed to be somewhat generational. The baby boomers, for the most part, not only seemed to do things differently, they didn’t even seem to understand why someone would do that. I pondered how this behaviour might have been learned by searching for similar patterns in activities which I partook in during my more formative years, especially ones which people like my parents probably partook in less if at all, and I thought of video games.

Now I’m not talking about all video games. I’m sure my parents visited the arcade more than once in their younger years. What I’m referring to are trends which began to pop up in video games more and more as systems got more advanced and it became easier to make more complex games (and then, unfortunately, less as games become more focused on graphics and less on length and content). More specifically, I’m talking about things such as side quests. Taking RPGs as an example, there are often quests you can complete or items you can find which will improve your character, but which are not essential to the plot. I thought about how these tasks are prioritized by the player. Often in games you cannot go back and complete one or more sidequests after passing a certain point in the main plot (or at least you can’t for a certain length of time, or it becomes a tedious task to travel back to where the quest is, or any other number of barriers which make completing that task inconvenient). So as we go through the games we learn that if we complete the less important tasks first then we will be better equipped to complete the important ones.

And it’s not just limited to RPGs. There are similar traits in many other genres as well. There are secret areas and bonus levels in all sorts of games which apply the same concept: Put off your primary task temporarily in order to make yourself stronger. So we have the same situation for your character in the game as I did with my homework above, but with a slight difference. When you complete a primary task in a game, the task is completed, you do not need to return to it. In academia, for example, if we finish an assignment early then we can still edit it and improve on it until the due date arrives. Regardless of that fact, however, I think that the principles that the games taught our psyches as children are fairly sound. It’s the idea of doing something right the first time, so that less editing needs to be done afterwards, which helps to keep things as clean as possible. By completing smaller and less important tasks before my major ones I’m increasing my knowledge of the subject matter and how to apply what I’ve learned to what I’m doing. Of course editing and polishing still need to be done, but by doing a better job on the first draft it should improve the flow of the structure of the assignment and reduce the amount of assignments which need to be done a second time from scratch.

Just an idea I was playing with today. Let me know if you agree or disagree.


January 19, 2008 Posted by | Games, Logic, Philosophy, Psychology, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Videogames | 1 Comment

Video Game Ideas

Going back to school to study some real software development at SAIT and having trouble finding games that I’m interested in, I’ve been thinking a lot about different game ideas that are beyond the scope of what I would be able to create without a full company behind me.  Talking specifically about roleplaying games which happen to be my preferred genre, I’ve been thinking about the lack of good RPGs that are on the market today, and the holes that can be filled in that area.

One main realm that RPGs have yet to fill well is superheroes.  The closest we’ve come so far other than the MMO City Of Heroes and City Of Villains, but MMOs are real RPGs.  At least not in my opinion.  Don’t get me wrong, I got nothing against Massively Multiplayer online games, I just don’t think of them when I think of having a world that you actually have a significant impact on.  Besides, the sort of equalizing that is necessary to make different people who play a different amount of hours each week makes MMOs often very slow and tedious.  So a single-player, probably first person game that is focused on superheroes.

At first it seems like it would be difficult to do without it becoming an action game.  Spiderman 2 and 3 already cover the almost-rpg action game genre about as well as GTA does for driving games.  However, I think that it’s exactly the juxtaposition of that fact that could make the game great.  Kind of like The Tick was for action cartoons (even moreso the live action series).  It’s sort of looking on the other side of superherodom, the real life side where we see the heroes that aren’t so important, and the day to day lives that they lead.

I use The Tick as an example, though I think that it would be important for the game itself to not be based entirely on the series as the first rule of any good RPG is that you can make your own character, personality and all.  But imagine a next-gen RPG that takes place in The Tick’s world.  You’d have to do things like pay rent, maybe have a fling or two with other super-heroes.  You’d so some actual detective work (over the top Sherlock Holmes style of course) in order to find out where the bad guy is or what he’s up to.  You could use different skills to escape fiendish traps and foil evil plots.  Most importantly, you could start out as a sidekick, gain experience and items to level up your character, start solving crime on your own and possibly even gain your own sidekick (though I firmly believe that RPGs are best kept to one player so the sidekick should be an NPC, but that’s just me), and work towards many storylines and goals.

It would definitely have to be a complex system in order to make different characters with different powers equally playable, while at the same time making the game a different experience for each type of character you play.  However, with game companies reaching the sizes that they’re at now, and with the resources that they have available with current processing power and the abilities of the next-gen consoles, I think it’s entirely possible to make a cult-classic.  Unfortunately in order for that to happen, it would have to be done really well, which would mean having a major company backing the project, and unfortunately there are no major companies that are currently showing any real promise in the area of cRPGs.  Bethesda seems to be the only company that’s had any success in recent years with cRPGs.  Whether or not they could pull it off I’ll keep my nose out of for the sake of keeping the argument about it to a minimum, but regardless, it doesn’t seem to be the sort of game that they’d be interested in making.

Ah well.  Maybe by the time I’ve got my piece of paper that tells people that I can program there’ll be some new contenders on the market who’ll be willing to listen to my ideas.  There’s always hope.

September 4, 2007 Posted by | Bethesda, Computer Programming, Games, programming, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Television, The Tick, TV, Videogames, xbox | 6 Comments

On Bethesda, Fallout 3, and Oblivion

It looks like I’m gettin a few visitors from the Fallout 3 forums and I haven’t updated the blog in far too long so I figure I’d share my own, somewhat convoluted opinion on what I think about the company, and the games both from a fan’s perspective and an aspiring young software developer’s perspective.

Let’s get Oblivion out of the way first.  I came into the Elder Scrolls series with Morrowind and I loved it.  Mainly because it was the closest game that I’d found to Fallout in a long time.  That may seem counter-intuitive to some, but it was one of the only open-ended RPGs that didn’t focus on party based combat (which I dislike intently) that I’d seen in a long time.  Of course I was also younger and more naive at the time and didn’t even consider the implications of it being first-person instead of top down (and, to be fair, Morrowind’s combat system is still largely based on stats) and thought the move a good one.  When I finally got a 360 and Oblivion, I was excited at the prospect of having this hugely hyped sequel to Morrowind that was supposed to be so much larger and more robust.  While I was disappointed, I don’t think I was as dissapointed as many.

The player-skill based combat bothered me much, as well as the complete lack of meaningful dialogue, and the surprisingly small (in feel if not in actual size) game world.  I think I passed the main plotline within 20 hours the first time through (I loggged well over 200 on Morrowind and still haven’t gotten around to actually passing the game, though I always had quests to do)  and found very little to do beyond that.  That all being said, I still enjoyed the game and do not regret the purchase.  It may not be close to what I was hoping for, but it’s still so much more than any RPG I tried to get into since Morrowind.  Of course I still consider my favorite RPG of all to be the Secret of Mana which is entirely linear story and dialogue, so that may have had something to do with my ability to accept Oblivion as a decent game, if not a decent cRPG.

I found out that Bethesda had bought the rights to the Fallout franchise back in  2004 when it was first announced and was highly looking forward to my new favorite RPG company making a new version of my old favorite RPG game.  I’ll admit that one of my first thoughts was that a 3D Fallout would be so extremely cool.  I continued to wait for information on the subject for far too long after that before I actually decided to go and look for some info.  In 2006 I was saddened to fin out that there was exactly zero new news stories on the franchise since I’d first heard about the purchase two years earlier.  So I succumbed to the urge to look at the forums on the fan sites, mainly NMA.  At first I was shocked to find out that the Fallout community did not think that Bethesda making Fallout 3 was a good idea.  However, I figured that there must be some reason for their complaints outside of the simple fact that Interplay wasn’t doing it, so I looked further.

As I spent more and more time lurking around NMA I got to learn the arguments against 3D real time RPGs pretty well.  I already completely agreed with the idea that twitch based combat had no place in the Fallout universe (I can put up with swords and arrows but when the main weapons are guns, well let’s just say that I’ve never been a fan of first person shooters).  I did, however maintain my faith in Bethesda, more simply out of the fact that there was no real indication that they were going to move in that direction.  After all, no information had been released yet.  So I bided my time, and I waited, and I waited, and I slowly began to see exactly why people were getting a little frustrated.

I can understand wanting to keep important game concepts, characters, weapons, graphics, all of that under wraps.  Anticipation is a powerful tool.  But Bethesda took it too far.  If they had had a simple message once every month or two that said non-specific things about what they were working on, like, oh say, "today we had a board meeting where we discussed different possibilities for combat styles" I think it would have quelled a huge amount of the mistrust (sure people woulda been angry with the prospect that it might not be turn-based, but the huge relief that the combat was ot going to be like Oblivion’s would have far surpassed the small increase in forum slander that was already there anyway).  More than that, if they had told us vague descriptions of what general area of the game they were working on, we could have written essays and posts based on that area so that we wouldn’t feel like we were yelling into the darkness and so that if by some random whim one of the developers actual wanted to find out what the fans thought about the area that they were talking about or working on, they could go find some recent ideas and debates on the subject.

Of course I don’t expect any game company to pay too much attention to forum based communities.  It is a small sample size of fans who have had much time to discuss and find common ground in their opinions so that many opinions of average fans get lost along the way.  I understand all that and respect it as a smart business decision.  However, the controllers of  the internet based media (especially concerning the Fallout games) did and do have a certain amount of sway over those who came to their sites once every few months simply to get updated information (and right up until the Bethesda forums came out they were still the only places with any real info on the game and stuff in the world of post-apocalyptic art and games and still are some of the first places that pop up when ya google "Fallout 3").  So as long as Bethesda continued to withhold information, they continued to post well-thought out and very rational anti-Bethesda propaganda that converted more to their cause.  Even if you weren’t going to listen too much to the input of the NMA and DaC frequenters, if you’d simply made them feel as though the process was not some government based, classified, highly dangerous and volatile project.  Basically, if you wanna be treated like people, you gotta treat other people like they’re people too.

All the while I still managed to keep my neutral stance on Bethesda.  They still haven’t done anything yet that says that they fucked up (although they’re coming close with the possible elimination of groin criticals and possible loss of sexual based themes and humour, or seemingly any humour for that matter outside that of the pip-boy and related cartoon figures themselves).  Since they finally started letting information into the air (though they still seem to be trying to limit the sources that they give info to to sources that do not disagree with anything that they’re doing, kinda like, you know, that guy, he lives in a big white house and has way too many bombs at his disposal) they have done a good job at relaxing some of my nerves, what with the work they’re putting into text trees and different options to complete quests and the moral choices that affect the game world and the ending of the game etc… I’m still in my alert stance on far too many things, like the staff’s seemingly adamant opinion on the idea that Fallout contained no silliness and to have anything silly in the game at all would somehow ruin any speck of credibility that they worked so hard to muster up against the huge angry storm (which they provoked slightly and gradually over the course of almost 3 years) that arrived at their doorstep when they finally opened the forums.  Taking out the star trek based random encounters I can understand, but to potentially leave out shots to the groin or drug induced women trying to hit on you so that you’ll buy her some Jet.  If done properly those are not slapstick and dick and fart jokes.  They’re a chuckle here and there that also make you think about how sad that Jet addict’s life is, or how sad that guy you just whacked in the nuts is gonna be when his wife divorces him because he can’t give her any babies.

I really didn’t intend to sound this anti-Bethesda when I sat down to write this, but like I said, it’s hard to listen to them telling everyone that they and only they know what belongs in Fallout and what does not.  But like I said before, I’m not gonna count them out.  I’ll continue to be angry about their condescending attitudes and lack of respect for the people who pay their cheques.  But as far as their business practices, hype machine, and general development talent goes I still think that Fallout 3 does indeed have the potential to be the game that the majority of Fallout fans (you know, the ones who don’t know anything about Fallout 3 that they haven’t read in a magazine) will enjoy as an actual sequel to Fallouts 1 and 2.

August 20, 2007 Posted by | Bethesda, Computer Programming, Fallout, Games, Oblivion, programming, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Technology, Videogames, xbox | 3 Comments

The End of a Theory

I thought I’d finish up my writings on the Charactorial Theory of Roleplaying Games here.  I actually came up with the conclusion a while ago but didn’t really want to admit it.  Truth is, the theory doesn’t work.  No theory works.  Roleplaying games can’t be defined universally, if for no other reason than the definition of ‘game’ itself is still up in the air.  The best theory I can think of as to whether a computer game is a roleplaying game or not, is the subjective theory which would be that a game is a roleplaying game if and only if you(personally)  play a character while you are playing through it.  Which can include many games that would not be thought of as roleplaying games for some people and disclude games that are thought of as roleplaying games for other people.

I hate having to go back to the subjective argument for anything, but unfortunately, in this case, I think that it’s a necessity.  We simply aren’t going to figure it out, and we have to understand that it’s all based on each person’s individual thoughts about a game.

July 11, 2007 Posted by | Epistomology, Games, Logic, Philosophy, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Videogames | Leave a comment

The Charactorial Theory of Roleplaying Games

Last time I started to talk about the Charactorial Theory o f Roleplaying Games, but I left the definition of what that is somewhat vague.  So now let’s explore it a bit further and see if we can make this work as a solution to the demarcation of roleplaying games.

 So the Characrtorial Theory of Roleplaying Games states that a game is a roleplaying game if and only if you are able to define your character through the game mechanics.  So let’s start by defining what’s meant by game mechanics.  If this term is used too loosely then any game that allows you to enter a description about your character would be included, so we have to be a bit more specific and say that it is the in-game mechanics that matter.  That is to say the part of the game where you actually consider yourself to be playing, rather than the part where you are setting yourself up, getting ready to play.  So the actual character creation part of any game would be excluded in the Charactorial theory of roleplaying games.  Which would mean that according to this theory, it wouldn’t matter what “class” of character you are, be it mage, thief, warrior, etc.  The game mechanics that are set up because of the character creation, therefore, also wouldn’t matter, as we would say that you would simply be playing a different version of the game.  Basically, if your character relies on the game mechanics for his/her definition, then the game mechanics cannot rely on your character for theirs.  One or the other has to come first, and so we’re saying that the game mechanics must come first and the character be made out of them. Continue reading

April 25, 2007 Posted by | Epistomology, Ethics, Fallout, Games, Metaphysics, Oblivion, Philosophy, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Technology, Videogames | 6 Comments

Philosophy of Video Games

Or more accurately, the philosophy of RPG video games.  After spending a small amount of time in Bethesda’s Fallout 3 forums I found a point where two of my passions meet.  Philosophy and videogames. I wanna try to demarcate an RPG and a non-RPG.  Now we could start here with a history of videogames and the RPG genre, but instead let’s start at the present.  Games as they are now.  What makes a game a roleplaying game?

Continue reading

April 23, 2007 Posted by | Ethics, Fallout, Games, Logic, Philosophy, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Videogames | 5 Comments