Dark Souls and it’s lore design

After hearing Elias’ presentation on Dark Souls, there are two parts that I consider crucial to the overall identity of the game that I want to touch upon. The post-apocalyptic scenario of the world—a key component of the core of the world of Dark Souls—and the ambiguity of the prophecy concerning the player. To do this however, I need to do a quick summary of the hidden plot of the Dark Souls, the plot that mostly takes place in the past. The character you play is in this weird position of being an inconsequential character to the world while at the same time he is the most important individual to the overarching plot of the game. Confused yet? Let’s go deeper.

There exists a prophecy in the world of Dark Souls that says that one day a ‘Hollow’ will “rekindle” the flame. (Hollows are humans who are slowly degenerating into a state of being Undead, essentially humans who are without hope or drive) This is the very same flame that Lord Gwyn chose to sacrifice himself to so many years ago in a desperate attempt to rekindle it as it was slowly fading away. The “flame”, essentially, represents life, humanity, and hope.

The character that you play in Dark Souls—an unnamed human—is supposed to represent the individual player that picks up the remote control. Making the character an unnamed human, with no ties to the past or future, make it the perfect avatar for the player. (Sort of how Link in the Legend of Zelda doesn’t have a voice, but instead is only given a different array of battle cries—this makes the character incredibly viable for any and all players to identify with.) Essentially, the character is you, me, anyone who has ever picked up the game, and anyone who will ever pick up the game in the future. Because that is the brilliance of the underlying plot of the game;  the light will keep fading regardless of how many people ultimately chose to sacrifice themselves for humanity. The “chosen one” really only refers to whoever eventually manages to make it through the entire journey of the game. Once that player is done and has successfully completed the game, the flame will start to fade again, an another will have to serve as the next sacrifice. The prophecy itself is self-fulfilling—which is a brilliant design on the game developers part.

Let’s talk about the post-apocalyptic state of the world of Dark Souls. This component to the game’s story is executed masterfully. There is no real narration in the game, anyone can play through the story without picking up on basically any of the lore of the world. As Elias said in his presentation of the game on Thursday, barely anyone understand the story on their first playthrough of the game. That’s because the story and lore is intentionally vague and shrouded. One of the ways of learning the history is to read the description of various items and objects found and uncovered throughout the world. These usually describe events and characterize the previous owners.

But the most interesting part of the game is the state of decay that it is already in by the time you arrive on the scene. The world is slowly dying around you, but just as evident as the corrosion of the world is to the player, so is the marvel of the former glory of the world. You’re able to travel through enormous castles, vast landscapes, and awe-inspiring dungeons. This world feels like it at one point in time was living and breathing. So, what then caused its demise? This intriguing conundrum is what drives the lore-enthusiasts on the Dark Souls community to seek more and more knowledge and pieces of information out of the game.

This design choice is part of what inspired me in my work this last semester in Mia’s class when I worked on developing ‘the Lord of Light’, my piece of interactive literature for that subject. My goal was to create a work in which the story of the world was unraveled piece by piece through documents and parchments written down by historians throughout history. Once the reader had gathered enough history I wanted to prompt the reader to make a executive decision on a crucial choice that would determine the fate of the characters involved in the piece. Sadly, my ambitions for the project outweighed my competence and time available. However, I do plan on continuing the ‘Lord of Light’ piece and I hope that I will be able to complete it in its intended design.

For anyone interested, here’s a link to the actual work:
https://writer.inklestudios.com/stories/jb86

 

Level up

 Continuing with games…

Another great gaming week in #Netnarr!  Ahhhh…So much to cover, so little time.  At any rate, I am enjoying our on-going conversation.  This week we covered a few different angles on game theory: -game genres, -game aesthetics, -(more) game history, and the video game-as-cultural object.

By the close of class on Thursday we seemed to be perfectly aligned next week’s topics including: -games & learning, -serious games, -games & empathy.

Peer Game Showcase &

I am quite sure the Peer Game Showcase is a definite success.  I am impressed and I am learning from all of you.  Excellent.  A special thank you to Thomas (City Skylines), Eirik (WOW) , Denny (One hour, One Life), Elias (Dark Souls), & Rikke (Senua’s Sacrifice) for thought provoking presentations.  In all honesty, I wish we had even more time for q & a and follow up discussion.  There was so much to consider.  Thanks to each of you for opening up a special lens on such a diverse array of video games.

Regarding the aesthetics of game play, we took a look at this::

I am including my lecture slides from Tuesday (13/3)  and Thursday (15/3) here.   I hope we can pick up where we left off next week by further considering the game as a cultural object.  I plan on incorporating some actual game play in class, so bring your devices! We will do some close reading of our actual game play (keeping in the foreground this notion of the “procedural rhetoric”, as per my lecture on Thursday).

For next week

-On Tuesday we are having class in the Humanities University Library.  There will be a launch event for my art installation entitled Textransformations.  I really look forward to sharing this work with all of you.

I will meet you all in the library at our regular class time of 14:15.  I will presenting a brief description and explanation of my work for the exhibit, and then we can socialize & take a closer look at the installation (you can discover interactive reading “hot spots” (qr codes) and compose some collaborative cut-up poetry.

There is a hashtag for this event: #textransformations. I encourage you to tweet pics of our gathering for #netnarr! 🙂  There is also a special Instagram feed which will feed into the exhibit website (the hashtag is also #textransformations).  I would love it if you posted there! And there will be some food for everyone since the DIKULT student group has been kind enough to provide some refreshments.  (**Please remember that the concepts that can be discovered in the exhibit will be helpful in terms of your upcoming midterm exam.)

-On Monday March 19th, we have a Studio Visit planned at 21:00 to discuss the topic of gaming & learning.  If you would like to join us in this discussion, please send me an email directly as soon as possible, so that I can make sure you receive the link to the hangout.  I am sure this will be an interesting chat, and our special guests will be Remi Kalir & Keegan Long-Wheeler.  I am sure it will be a very interesting conversation, and I would love it if a couple of you would join us.

Remi Kalir and Keegan Long-Wheeler (Mar 19 @ 4:00pm EDT)

-On Thursday in class we will continue with our discussion of games (lecture will refer to Understanding Video Games, Chps 7 & 8).  We have another peer game showcase, and we will also play empathy games and consider them together during class.

-Remember that this week you should be composing your 6th blog post by this coming Sunday (March 18th) which reflects on games, game theory, and game history (as per our conversations this past week).

-Also, please remember your midterm exam (which is accessible on the mitt.uib system) will go live on Monday March 19th, and stay open for you to complete (on your own time) until Sunday April 15th.  Please make sure you complete this open book exam before April 15th.  I will remind you in class about this on Thursday.

Looking forward to gathering with all of you on Tuesday at the library!!

Enjoy the weekend,

Mia

EA controversy

I’ve always had a passion for games. From my first encounter with video games on the PS1 til this day. Today i basically game on everything (as long as the game is fun). 18 years of gaming, what a life 😀

And in those 18 years I have seen and witnessed how the evolution of games has progressed. Gaming has become a multi billion dollar industry in the United States! Has this affected games in a negative or positive way?

Today I wanted to talk about the negative way.

The beginning of loot boxes

Let’s start with the rise of microtransactions. I wanted to talk more specifically about EA, and when it all first started.

Microtransactions were designed around the “freemium” business model for mobile games. The games were free, but if you wanted to progress faster, or get new items in those games, you had to pay actual money to get in-game credits. How I see it it’s fair, since the game is free and developers still need to make money. But it’s still a bit controversial, because it exploits people who have problems (some people spend a huge amount of money in those games). South Park has an episode called “Freemium isn’t free”. The episode is about Stan getting addicted to a freemium mobile game. It’s a really funny episode, but it’s still sheds a light on why the freemium games aren’t “free”.

In a video by a channel called “Skill Up”. He dives deep into the history of micro transactions, and he finds out that it all can be traced back to Andrew Wilson (CEO of EA). And it actually began with the football (Soccer) game FIFA, with a game mode called Ultimate Team.

Ultimate Team still exists today. And it is basically a game mode in fifa. It allows you to customize your football team, where you can compete against other players. Ultimate team allowed you to collect and trade virtual players with other people. And these players are based on real life players. For every game you play you will be rewarded credits. These credits allowed you to buy randomized packs of cards. There were 3 different card packs. Bronze, silver and gold. The gold one was of course much more expensive than the bronze one, but your chances of getting a good player were much higher. And of course if you wanted to get a player like Messi or Ronaldo your chances are small. So basically you use money to open up packs of cards (just like Pokemon cards!). Some of the items (players) are useful and some of them are not.

The problem with this type of game is that EA releases FIFA every year. And the progress you made in Ultimate Team, and the players you got from buying loot crates (packs of cards) dont get transferred to the new FIFA game. Although it’s the same goddamned game every year, just with a new name and cover! like instead of FIFA 17 its FIFA 18, and has Cristiano Ronaldo in the front instead of Marco Reus. But it’s the same engine, same gameplay mechanics, same gameplay. They just add some new goal celebrations, and then slap a 60$ game tag on it and call it a new game.

 

Battlefront 2 controversy

With Battlefront 2 EA tried to take it one step further. They still had loot boxes, but this time you felt “forced” to buy items. Because if not you would have a hard time playing the game, because these items had an effect on the gameplay, which gave some players an unfair advantage. They could get better powers, better weapons etc.

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The critique started in the beta testing of the game. The people who played the beta complained about the game being unfair due to the lootboxes. And EA said that they would address this, but when the people who pre-ordered the game got to play it before everybody else, the mood was not good. Reports came in that EA did absolutely nothing to fix the balance in the lootbox issue. But things really blew up when an EA employee commented a reddit post by MBMMaverick.

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That comment became the most downvoted comment in the history of Reddit. A guy named Soeren Kamper over at Star Wars Gaming created a formula estimating the percentage chance of card drops, the credits given for duplicate cards and the average number of crafting parts given per box. By using this formula it became know that you either had to spend 4528 hours on the game. Or you could pay 2100$ if you don’t have the time to play for that long.

This is an insane amount which results in an endless grinding, which is a very bad BAAD gameplay mechanic. There needs to be a fine line between grinding and the overall experience, but having too much grinding in a game makes it boring after a while.

What i found was really disgusting from EA’s side was that they made an announcement when the controversy hit that they would TEMPORARILY shut down loot boxes in the game. They probably thought that they could just shut it down and later put it back in the game when the controversy was over. Showing once again that they won’t listen to the people (customers, gamers) who make their jobs even possible.

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I feel bad for DICE who developed the game. They’re a very talented development team. Its sad to see that a publisher like EA could destroy a game like Battlefront even before it’s released. This clearly shows that EA sometimes don’t care whether the game is good or not, but just about the money.

I hope that they’ve learned from this experience, but somehow i doubt that.

Have a great weekend everyone! See you next week 🙂

– Roj

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