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September 5, 2006

Strong Bad E-mail #94

Where do I begin? I admit that when he was going through the types of video games and what they would be like I laughed out loud when Interactive Fiction was mentioned. This genre is one that I always tend to go back and forth on. I hated it two years ago, warmed up to it during the MWG:Video Gaming class and now I am indifferent I suppose. Anyway, it wasn't necesarily funny that SB brought it up, but rather the quote about the people that play these types of games immediately struck me.

"You know for those intellectual people with better imaginations"-Reminded me of Jerz...and then the mention of Dennis as one of the things that you see. Is that like some weird reference to Jerz and his appreciation of IF games?

The one thing that I will say about this Strong Bad e-mail is that all of the elements he describes in each game are not far from what really happens in them. The first game, which would be seen as primative compared to the systems and games of today used shapes and other objects to represent the character and his/her surroundings, weapons, and obsticles. This to me is a direct reflection of the statement that some game critics have made that the story of the game is not really as important as some gamers make it out to be. The objects in the game were not exactly created to be a likeness of the things the story was calling them. In games like these the rules, methods, and tasks which you use to win the game are more important than a story.

Take into consideration that geometric figures such as boxes, moving from one place to another on a path and picking up dots. This hardly represents a heroic character collecting gold coins in order to free his lover from the clutches of a villian. Is it a fair assumption to state that as the technology surrounding video games advanced, the importance of a story line became more of a concern?

Then you have the txt adventure and IF games that are 100% dependent on story, but lack graphics. I feel like this is a little bit of commentary on the idea that in order to have a great story your game will be lacking and the antithesis which is in order to have great graphics the story might suffer. Independently they would survive, but it seems almost like there is no happy medium when trying to have great graphics and a great story.

I can't relate too much to the representation of the 3D vector game. I will say however that the emphasis placed on the "super photorealistic game" is something gamers and more importantly game designers are constantly striving to obtain. You always here these game commercials and the first thing they stress is that this version has the most realistic graphics yet. Its weird that the emphasis is on reality in a world that strives on things that in many cases are completely impossible for us to run out and do. I wonder if adding more realistic graphics would ever take away from the fantasy/escape element of the game? But then you see games like GTA (with real goals) that are fantasy in the regard that people are running around and getting away with illegal deeds that in the real world would likely not happen. It all makes you wonder where is the balance between story and graphics as well as fantasy and reality.

Ex 1: Koster Overview

Koster's book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design is one that I would highly reccomed to anyone interested in learning the fundamental concepts surrounding gaming as a means of entertainment as well as teaching tools. He uses examples from not only traditional video games, but from other types of games such as board, multiplayer and card. The topics which Koster discusses branch off into many fields and for that reason it would be appropriate to use this book in both psychology and education classes.

I agreed strongly with the definition that Koster used to describe a medium: “formal abstract model for teaching patterns.” Learning and playing games is all about memorizing patterns. Its like when you play a game so much that you don't even think about it anymore. There are some people that can beat Super Mario Brothers 3 for the Nintendo (NES) system in a little under 5 minutes. Those people have memorized the patterns of the game so well that it has become effortless for them to play it. The current world record without any items stands at 5 minutes and 6 seconds, while the fastest tool-assisted speedrun completes the game in 4 minutes, 59.6 seconds.

The main theme that I have taken away from the book is that games are an amazing tool with a great amount of power and even more potential then we know. In order for games to reach their full potential, like most things, we have to believe that they are capable of doing so and give them the credit they have been denied for so many years. There really is no distinction between art and entertainment that I can see, therefore games are both art and entertainment.

Koster does not praise all the games which are on the current market but he does make us think about what they really represent. The point of games is to teach people something they might have not learned in another situation. For visual learners the use of games is imperative for them to understand concepts that they might not comprehend in other forms.

September 6, 2006

Koster Response...Finish Book

In chapter 8 Koster talks about the importance of the backstory as well as its relevance. Even I have skipped the back story a few times to get to the "meat" of the game. Usually after I have seen it once that is enough for me, and I know the general story. I know the goal of the game or particular level and don’t need to be seeing it a million times, because that just gets annoying. If I die or for some reason am forced to restart the game, clicking through the annoying story at the begining adds to my frustration with the game. In regard to players playing head to head and then quitting because they were inferior brings me to an example in my own family. My Dad likes to play games that he is sure he will do well in. If he doesn’t understand it then he can find it annoying, as would most people. He also doesn't like to play against anyone in the house that knows cheat codes, because in his eyes that is not right/unfair/or even unethical.

When we were younger I never beat him at a football, baseball or tennis game once, for any of our many gaming systems (NES, SEGA, PS2). But, when I got older this changed and the first time I beat him was on Playstation playing Tiger Woods Golf Classic. And I didn’t even like golf at the time like I do now. All I can say about playing the same type of character over and over is that I am too at fault for doing this. If you are a woman, you tend to like to play women characters in games. In Tekken 3, I play Nina or Ana because they are powerful females. I’d like to also refer to my experience playing Tony Hawk Pro-Skater. I always played the character of Elisa Steamer, because she was the only girl in the game. We gravitate towards what we know, right? Being in the zone “feels good.”

Koster makes a point to talk about emergent gameplay; the creative use of a game in ways unexpected by the game designer's original intent. It commonly appears as complex behaviors that emerge from the interaction of simple game mechanics. This is most common in computer games and is often prized by game designers (Wikipedia).

September 7, 2006

Its Just That Random...


Interactive Fiction Pre-Game Response

Today I played two interactive fiction games that were very familiar to me. I had previously been exposed to both of these games when I took EL 236 : Writing for the Internet. The first game that I played was called Pick up the Phone Booth and Die. As Chris noted in his blog entry about the game, it is rather easy to beat within 3 turns if you remember how to play it. You would think that the title would be enough of a warning to people, but from what I understand people that play this game always want to pick up the phone booth. It is simple enough that all you have to do is type MOVE BOOTH and you win the game. Ok so after reliving freshman year and EL 236 I went on the play 9:05, another blast from the past.

9:05 is actually one of the better games that I have played and I think it is a good one for beginning players. The key to this game is looking under the bed before getting started with the game and you will understand how interactive fiction works. Rule number one: you have to examine everything, no matter how trivial it may seem at the time. I always play these games with the mindset that everything has a purpose, whether it be to help advance me in the game, or to act as a McGuffin/diversion. If you choose to look under the bed, the ending is not a surprise, but for those who don't look are in for a great shock. Another reason I like this game is that the creator wrote it in such a way that he practically directs the player where he/she needs to go. 9:05 is a game that you play for the story rather than for intricate puzzles.

Zork I and Deadline were the other two games which I chose to play. The first thing that I noticed in Zork I was that you can't simply type X to examine something like in most IF games today. No matter how many times I play Zork I, I can never beat it, and believe me I have played it in three different Jerz classes. I do recall once making a map of the game to help me remember where I was going because the interface of the game is so complex. I could sit staring at my computer screen for hours and still not figure out how to unlock the grating. The hardest part for me to figure out is where to go once I have climbed down the canyon and have reached the end of the rainbow. It def. is a game for hardcored IF gamers.

I often like to think of IF games as being in the same category as those choose your own ending Goosebumps novels that were popular in the 90s. Apparently this genre has yet to subside because IF is still popular, and most recently the film Final Destination 3 came out with a choose your own ending DVD.

Below are a few links that may help those in the class get aquainted with the genre.
Helpful Hints for Playing Interactive Fiction

Getting Started With IF

Exposition in Interactive Fiction...

I would most def. compare IF to hypertext adventure stories in the regard that in order to advance in the game the player must make certain choices. It takes a certain breed to play these games; someone who is not afraid of a challange, but more importantly not afraid to learn. IF is a genre that many people would call complex and because of there lack of interest in learning it, they dismiss it as too hard or as something written above their level of understanding.

I agree with the statement that most games involve a pro-logue, a middle game, and an endgame. The prologue tends to introduce the player to their situation in the game. David Myers defined the prologue as "the opening screen of static text" which is commonly called an introduction in other narrative forms of storytelling. It is my interpretation that the prologue is a long introduction at the begining of a game, and is different than the opening screens which accompany scenes further in the game. These later screens are short intros about the room which you are in and the surroundings that are present. The first few scenes should act as an intro to the genre, and should allow the player to become comfortable with the unusual form of game play.

The voice of the IF narrator is of great importance to the game. An IF writer should approach writing these IF game story lines in the same way that you would approach writing online text. Short and terse sentences are better than long drawn out ones. The descriptions of rooms and items should lead the character/player to want to interact with them rather than show them the way to victory.

September 11, 2006

Ex 1: News Comparison

The news that we consume each day has varying effects on the audience depending on the way in which it is presented. It is very possible that you could read about a particular story in a newspaper or on a website, and then see a broadcast of it on television. Even though the consumer may be exposed to the same news, the story might have left them with a very different impression, because of the medium which was used to present it. On Sunday September 10, 2006 I conducted an analysis of the news as it was presented in print by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review newspaper, as well as on the television by the Channel 3(ABC) WTAE Action News.

The first thing that I took into consideration was the issue of timeliness concerning the events being reported on television compared to in the newspaper. I picked up the paper early Sunday morning which lends itself to the idea that the news which I was reading about had likely happened the previous day. There is also the assumption that some of the stories may report on things that are scheduled to occur on the day the paper is printed, and will likely be mentioned in a follow up article in the newspapers next issue. I felt that overall the newspaper was more informative in regard to local events as well as world news because it was not as concentrated on one story as the television program.

I watched the news program at eleven o’clock at night under the assumption that the news featured would be from through out the day. This was only the case during some of the program. In totality the news program was thirty five minutes long, and featured ten small segments. I felt cheated as I wasted my time waiting to here something significant in the broadcast, and was eventually let down. Only the most interesting and “life-altering” of the stories seemed to actually make it on the air where as the less trivial and ones were left out. The focus of local television broadcasts is humanitarian stories, consumer reports, and general over-views of broader topics that the newspapers will go into detail about the next day.

In the past I would have said I found that the most appealing to my tastes was indeed the television broadcast, but in this instance I chose the newspaper because of its functionality. I noticed that the television news reports tended to focus on human interest pieces that were primarily about 911 and the terrorist attacks of five years ago. I understand that this is a large part of our country, but I do not agree that 60% of the news reported should be about it. The broadcast simply went in circles and even went as far to feature two different stories about visiting the flight 93 site.

The television broadcast was lead by a story involving a knife being found on a plane leaving Pittsburgh, and then the flight 93 stories followed. The local story brings these issues close to people in the area, but then again I feel like it almost attempts to create more hysteria about flying. It just seemed like the newscasters wanted to make a point about flying and terrorism. I honestly don’t think that is what the news needs to be about. Rather than informing that public that is watching, this form of television broadcasting is littered with mostly commercials and stories that leave me as uninformed as I would be had I chosen not to watch at all.

Some parts of me want to blame this particular station for being poorly run because it is local, and there is a stigma attached to the validity and actual impact of local news teams. I just can’t help but to consider that it was a local station and it didn’t even cover any local news except a story about a shooting in Oakland. The newspaper had an entire section devoted to local news. There appears to be a need as far as local news is concerned to broadcast more than just flowery human interest pieces that appeal to only one emotion; sadness.


Channel 3(ABC) WTAE Action News
TV STORIES: 35minute Broadcast
1. Weapon on a plane (small knife). PITT Airport.
2. Remembering 911: Flight 93 – Shanksville.
3. Flight 93 Story Part II
4. President Placing Flowers to Remember 911
5. Pentagon Visits – American Heroes
6. Oakland Shooting
7. Saluting Pennsylvania’s National Guard
8. 911 Flight 93 Site – Hallowed Ground
9. Weather
10. Sports

September 16, 2006

Very Bored...Came Up With This...

The Sound Of Music:
(modernized opening scene) By: Leslie Rodriguez

Franz: Yes, sir?

Captain: I was paging the maid and she didn't answer. Do you know why?

Franz: Sometimes she doesn't hear, sir.

Housekeeper: I'm sorry, sir, I was answering my e-mail and my pager was off.

Captain: Why did the last nanny leave?

Housekeeper: Who knows? She just said, "I've had enough of this," and hailed a taxi.

Captain: Why? Was Louisa playing tricks on her again? Sending viruses to her computer?

Housekeeper: She didn't complain of that.

Captain: Well, there's another one coming today. And she can't walk out.

Housekeeper: Oh?

Captain: She's coming from Queens and staying until September.

Housekeeper: I hope you'll stay home for a while sir. Oh yes, and before you arrived there was a call for you from Brooklyn for Franz.

Captain: Well what are you telling me for? Tell Franz! Oh and I hope you know I will be bringing guests back with me when I return in a month.

Housekeeper: Oh? Do you know who and how many?

Captain: Ms. Detweiler and Mr. Schraeder.

Franz: Who was calling me on the telephone?

Housekeeper: It was the the post office, they have a package that they are sending over for you at 7:00pm.

Franz: That gives me 5 hours to be nervous. I think it may be from my cheese of the month club. I am expecting the latest from Wisconsin. Quite exciting.

Housekeeper: With that horrible delivery boy you'll be lucky to get your package. He might eat it.

Franz: Well, thats one thing people are saying-if the Swiss ever take over we'd have a lot more cheese. You know, because the delivery boys wouldn't be so hungry.

Housekeeper: Oh Franz. (ha ha!) Don't let the Captain hear you say that though. You know, he didn't use to tap dance to call us when his wife was alive.

Franz: He's being the Captain of the dance troop again.

Housekeeper: I can't bear being tapped for! It's humiliating...

Franz: In the dance troop back at Chip-N-Dales the boss always tapped for us.

Housekeeper: I wasn't in that dance troop!

Franz: Too bad! You could have made a fortune.

Housekeeper: Oh Franz!

The End

September 18, 2006

Rentals Revisited: September/October Edition...

Fresh off the press.


September 21, 2006

Seib Chapter 1...

In chapter one of Philip Seib's book Going Live the idea of going too far with live news is brought up. Sometimes, particularly in regard to television news, the viewer may be exposed to live shocking moments as they are happening. For example the attacks on 911 on the World Trade Center Towers and the Columbine High School shooting were two events captured and immortalized on video. Another issue that was raised in this chapter was the idea of credibility versus being the first newspaper that puts out a particular story.

Is it better to print what you think is accurate in order to be first on the beat, or is it better to wait and verify the story? If you wait then you lose the chance of being the first on the story, but you also gain credibility because it is more likely that you have the actual facts. Leaking a story without checking facts entirely can lead to retractions that discredit news organizations. One important thing that I took away from this chapter is that news today is more of a hot commodity in regard to business than ever before.

There are now even courses at universities that focus on the idea of "Business Journalism" which involves learning the craft of journalism and the fundamentals of business at the same time and relating the two.

September 22, 2006

Seib Chapter 2...

Chapter 2 of Seib's book brought up the idea that live coverage tends to be more attractive because the public views it as being timely. Speediness in news is often recognized in high regard. One thing that we discussed in class about live news is that it often covers a story that has been covered previously. On television newscasters will sometimes run the same story several times in one day with no new developements. The same thing can happen with online stories as well. One thing that I found out about television journalism is that live coverage is very much so centered on the idea of getting high ratings for the station.

The book also brings up the idea of "Live for the sake of being live" which means that it is done for effect. Things like car chases like the one with OJ Simpson are really not informative in any respect other than that they are showing you the action as it is happening. I can say that we didn't learn much from watching OJ's white Bronco speeding down the road. He didn't hit anyone and wasn't doing too much crazy driving so I still don't get that one. Having a police scanner in your home is very much like watching news happening live except for the fact that it is not visual.

Often times newscasters and their camera crews can manipulate coverage for the sake of "getting the shot" they need to present the news a certain way. This can sometimes mean that the actual news cast is a mix of on the ground and aerial reporting. Though the shots can show us the same thing, but they portray it in a different way.

September 24, 2006

Media Lab: Portfolio I

1. Lab Report 1
2. Assigned Reading 1
3. Assigned Reading 2
4. Media Analysis
5. Class Project Action Item

September 26, 2006

Darby Chapters 1-4...

Games take us into a world that is often times much different than the one we live in. That is seen as one of the primary appeals of games; escapism. Darby touches briefly on the concept that many people believe games can only be created through complex forms of coding and through binary coding language, or C++ coding. In high school I dabbled in computer science for one semester. After reading this section of the book and working in The Games Factory 2, I can see a paramount difference between the binary code and this type of programming software: mathematical equations vs logic. I really hated working with binary code because I am not good at mathematics and it was all based on algebra equations.

The programs that we made dealt with variables and their purpose was not to act as games, but as computation devices. I suppose games are similar in the sense that you could program each aspect of a game to have a numerical value, but it appears that the Game's Factory deals with If Then statements or conditionals more than anything else. After reading this chapter I am interested in creating a side scroll shooter game, but minus the aspect of shooting. Instead I would like to replace the idea of gathering/catching of falling objects to gain points.

The developement of a game needs to be one of careful thought. I believe Jerz said "You need to think like a gamer." There are a million things to take into account when designing a game that is complex enough to be challenging, but simple enough in nature that it doesn't require a lot of instruction. I have begun to sit down and draw a diagram of how I would like my game to be created. There are going to be several levels (no more than 4) that are going to become progressively more challenging. The story is already pre-determined because the game is going to be based on the television show Family Guy.

At this stage of game developement it is important to write down the boundaries of each object involved. It is very necessary to know what the mechanics of the game will be before begining the process of game creation. The screen design must be consistent and for this reason I chose to use buttons on each menu screen with a similar colored background. The game will not be littered with various colors, or fonts because that is too complex and inconsistent. That simply looks unprofessional to me. The graphics, sound and music in the game will likely come directly from the show. The only thing I am worried about is somehow being charged with ripping off the show or with copyright infringement. I want to work with Stormy to create a game that reaches every audience with delightful and entertaining content.

September 27, 2006

Darby Chapters 5-6, 7-8, 9

This section of Darby's book helps the game designer to understand how the player will access various menu screens within the game. Darby stresses that a game created in The Games Factory 2 (TGF2) is only playable on machines with certain system and runtime requirements. Chapter 5 was pretty much a review of how to operate TGF2 and it didn't touch too much on anything else. It showed how to setup and operate the program, but I found that the tutorial that is built into the program under the help section is really the way to go. I am not a big fan of reading step by step instructions out of a book, but on a screen it comes much easier to me. If you choose to use the tutorial within the game, you can open that window next to what you are working on and do it simultaneously.

"Objects are the building blocks to your games." This statement is def. true. It has come to my attention that in my game I am going to have to create a few of the objects from scratch. I am making a bar for Peter Griffin to slide across, the background squares, and the bar logo for the "Drunken Clam." The best way to make these objects or the best way to tweak them is to open them in Adobe Photoshop CS. Photoshop is the best program to use because you can sharpen the image, size it down correctly, and rastersize it so it is not as pixelated when it transfers into TGF2. Chapter 6 is very helpful because it teaches the basic principles about inserting the various objects that are part of the game. There is a glossary of sorts that can be found on pages 71-74.

Chapters 7-10 were more helpful as both Jerz and Chris had previously expressed. Chapter 7 deals primarily with the properties that each element of TGF2 can have. The Frame Editor, and objects are two areas where property settings are of great importance. You can control the speed, direction, and visibility of each of these just to name a few. The event editor is a huge part of chapter 8, because it shows the sequence in which things happen in the game. Chapter 9 stresses backing up files. I never thought about the consequence of data loss until it happened to me earlier in the developement of my game. I did not make a backup file, but I saved something and then couldn't undo it. There is not a step backward button in this software. Sometimes when you do click undo it doesn't work or the button isn't visible. Backup is reccomended through burning to CDRs, websites and hard disks.

September 28, 2006

Darby Chapters 10-11...

Chapter 10 was about movement. Movement is something that almost every game will incorporate. In my game Peter Griffin is going to move from left to right as he slides across a bar. There will also be movement when the beer drops fall from the sky and when the evil Lois figure falls as well. Movement will also be important when Peter tries to catch the drops or attempts to dodge the Lois character. I have gone ahead and made each of these items active objects. If you simply import them, they might now work. In my game Lois is the enemy object, and Peter the player object. I programed Lois and the beer drops as objects that wouly use Pinball movement. This means that that the objects bounce in like a ball. I have taken the liberty of controlling their speed and direction as well. In the first level Peter moves relatively fast and their are no Lois obstacles in the game. As we progress to the next level it is assumed that Peter is becoming more drunk and I have set his speed to decelerate.

Also, in later levels the beer drops are farther away from Peter's location, and because it takes him a while to get to them, the game becomes more of a challenge. Originally I had thought about creating the Lois object with a path movement to chase Peter around, but after trying that decided it was a little too hard for the player to avoid her. Chapter 11 dealt primarily with graphics and animation, which is something I was very interested in learning about. Working on my game was pretty much a piece of cake after reading this chapter because I understood movement and only needed to import graphics and work on animating them. Making my own graphics was very easy after reading chapter 11. The Picture Editor part of TGF2 is a little bit hard to control, especially if you have to delete the pre-defined background in an image.

About September 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Roamer's Zone in September 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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