A Very Subjective Post Gameplay Rant

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A fellow game developer and good friend was kind enough to lend me a small surplus of games I had yet to test drive. Among those was Transformers - War For Cybertron, which was given a whirl since it had received fair critical reception. The game's level design and set pieces matched with a nice blend of scope, scale, and reverence to the original series, immediately sold the immersion factor for the first couple of hours of gameplay. In addition, tapering level flow included movers, ramps, catwalks, open vistas, narrow corridors, back and foreground elements added a sense of form and function to the game landscape - holy shit this is Cybertron - very satisfying spatial psychology! Then.... monotonous waves of NPC's rob the sense of virtual sensation from mastering an interesting game system. Thus, the challenge dulls creating a bit of immersion breakage. I suppose this is a choice between creating play options vs. developing complex AI (time constraints probably affected this). For contrast, it would have been nice to see a push towards integrating a few environmental puzzles or interactions especially with such great set pieces.

Transformers - War For Cybertron

Disappointingly, I had recently crossed this same path while playing God of War III . Design wise the game does not manage to retain quite the impact like the opening Mount Olympus sequence while small bugs like fidgety camera splines, a flawed rhythm based mini-game, and flat puzzling solving instances all contributed towards disappointing immersion breakage. I understand this title has an established design formula and is sticking to what it does best (hack and slash swarms of NPC's), but I can't help but expect something - a breath of fresh design ideas in this age of technological might. Though, the isometric Echochrome eqsque sequence was a noble attempt in that direction! However, the game did manage to nail the story telling components every step of the way - a very signature trait of this franchise. I had to ask myself "is this a masterpiece or game of the year material?" My expectations were riding high on this one.

God of War 3

While Playing Limbo it became evident how to compare and contrast between the overall experience from the aforementioned titles. Though it may not be suitable to compare apples to oranges, but the point I'm trying to etch is that a well established intellectual property is clearly not a means towards neglecting potential new aspects of your current design architecture (no deep wisdom there). Using various nuances to leverage mechanics and objectives can be an ideal solution towards straying from dull monotony. Good level design exposes subsets of a system which, can be easily added up to help forge gameplay cohesion. Little Big Planet succeeded quite well in that respect- a variety physics based problem solving adds character to puzzles while allowing spaces to feel less static which implies organic spatial relationships. In turn, these types of characteristics begin to embody the essence of game design cohesion, fluidity, harmony, and balance that create an arch of mastery fit for improvising. When these elements gracefully fall into place the game ignites that nerve, an emotional surge of ownership.


The wife and I enjoyed Limbo because of its ability to promote thought provoking problem solving through mood, timing, contrast, and foreshadowing. These traits also applied towards the the gray-scale visual language which add an additional layer of wonder and awe to the mood category which summons that emotional intimacy you hope for in most interactive experiences. Oh yeah, and the game manages to exploit dark humor through dying in a variety of ways. Design wise the game demands learning through failure, often times repetitively which can almost be closely tied into a game like Portal.

So... sure button mashing and relentless poundings of NPC's can have its merits too. I'm a firm believer in having a healthy blend of content for any type of occasion, mood, or curiosity. Surly one does not eat the same kind of food, read the same kind of books, or watch the same movies everyday- do they?

Visual Music Collaborative 2010

More food for gaming thought. The overlap of interactive music/sound based apps continues to find itself gravitating towards game design architecture. This five day workshop at the Eyebeam art and technology collective in New York was held in collaboration with Ghostly International as a means to explore visual-musical experiences. These explorations are intended to create a "framework" that could perhaps be built upon in future instances.

Visual Music Collaborative 2010 from Aaron Meyers on Vimeo.

Sougwen - Drawing Jam

I happened to stumble across the work of illustrator, Sougwen through a retweet several weeks ago. Her work is quite remarkable and lends itself toward very conceptual and organic forms that would be ideal for translating over to some sort of interactive experience. I'm currently exploring a design treatment for a psychological-therapeutic app. that allows some exercise of self expression wrapped in a seamless, fluid manner. Needless to say watching this segment does wonders for the imagination.

Sepalcure - Every Day of my Life from sougwen on Vimeo.

School of Seven Bells

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A great recent stripped down acoustic session of the new album "Disconnected From Desire". This session really demonstrates the solid fundamental musical abilities of this catchy little band.

Be sure to also check out my recent photos from their L.A. stop -