All posts by pettervill

Anthem review – translated

An identity crisis in video game form

Bioware is showcased as a shadow of themselves with Anthem.

Anthem is a delusional game. From the moment you tread your feet into the wild jungles of Bastion, flying around like Iron Man with a variety of skills to fight the variety of fascinating enemies., your jaw is dropping because of the beauty of it all. And when your first set your feet into Fort Tarsis, the safe fort cemented with fascinating and entertaining characters, your first thought is that Bioware actually delivered on the promises they’ve made over the last six years. A Mass Effect-like game, but also MMO-like with powerful weapons and abilities you can chase while defeating the biggest and baddest fiends you can imagine.

But all of this is also Anthem’s main problem: it’s trying to roll along purely on the promising first impression. It’s not until you’re a few hours deep that you discover that Anthem isn’t even close to what they have advertised, and that it’s actually closer to soulless than anything.

A half-baked narrative

On a hostile planet, the humanity has barely survived thanks to a barely surviving breed of warriors called Freelancers. A long time ago a breed of aliens shaped the planet after their wish thanks to something calles «The Anthem of Creation», a mystical device with power no one has true knowledge about. And as a freelancer it’s your job to keep these mysterious powers from doing too much damage and preventing more apocalyptic events. It might sound interesting from this brief summary, but it seems like Bioware aren’t entirely sure what they’re doing with their own narrative. You can tell that the story is more character driven than anything, because they have constructed a lot of interesting characters with brilliant facial animations and interesting stories based on events that took place before the game’s narrative.

But these characters are locked in the narrative prison Bioware call Fort Tarsis. And since this is a looter shooter in the spirit of games like Destiny and The Division, you could forgive the narrative and dismiss it as one of the least important parts of the game. But after every god forsaken mission you’re forced back to Fort Tarsis to walk an unnecessarily slow and long distance, just for a wonky exposition dump from one of the many characters helping you in the battle. The whole space feels like a waste of time when these characters could’ve been out in the field and delivering it there, especially when you consider the long and boring loading screens Anthem force you into for what seems like every click of a button.

A shotty Iron Man sequel

One of the few things Anthem actually do well is the gunplay and action. You have the choice between four different javelins, the Iron Man-esque suits the freelancers use. You have Ranger, your typical military stereotype. Colossus, the giant tank meant to jump in first and defend the rest of the team. Storm, the master of elements. And last, but not least, Interceptor, a sort of robot ninja focused on CQC. All four have their place, and are fun to play around with.

The problems start pouring in after a few hours, though. Even though all the javelins are fun to play around with, you’ll find yourself hitting the snooze button once you realize how shitty the mission structure is. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a missing scientist or destroying a Shaper relic that can destroy the entire planet. All the mission rotate between half a dozen minor tasks that you have to complete.

Stand here for a few minutes and defend the circle.

Clear the area of enemies

Pick up these eight objects and place them in this circle. Oh, and you have to defend that one too.

After a while it gets numb, and even strongholds that are meant to be the most difficult and engaging content builds on the damn concepts with nothing else to help enhance them.

The looter shooter category this game has been lumped into doesn’t really help either. All the fun abilities tied to your javelin are also part of the loot that can drop, which makes it increasingly difficult to customize and experiment with your builds. You would rather have something that increases your power level and makes it easier to fight the hardest foes than keep around the common-tier ability that seems super good. And even though the abilities are the best parts of the javelin, the weapons in the game are a small sour dash on top of the the terrible dessert Anthem is serving you.

And i’m aware the game is in third person, but couldn’t they at least have tried with the weapon looks? It doesn’t matter if the weapon you get is common or legendary, they’re all the same base look and are about as creative as giving a kindergarten crew a bunch of cardboard and finger paint. It’s not until you get the best loot (names masterworks and legendaries) that there’s an inch of creativity , and to get there you have to suffer your way through 20-30 hours of the same dozen of tasks.

Conclusion

There’s a lot of if’s and but’s surrounding Anthem. It looks good, but feels soulless. The fundamentals are there, but the mission structure is horrid. The abilities are cool as hell, but the weapons are terrible. It’s clear that this game was released several months before it was ready, and Bioware seems to have lost what made them a powerhouse in the industry. They’re responding fairly and quickly to critique so far though, and they might make the game what it deserves to be some months down the line. But as for now you should just steer clear.

Wrapping up: short ELC analysis and my own creation

This is the 10th and last blog post for the semester. It’s been a fun adventure, and the experience of writing a blog and reflecting on what we’ve learned with my own experiences and analyzing things in this fashion has definitely been helpful with taking in all the subjects we’ve learned about. To cap it all of, two thigns are gonna happen in this blog post: I will be analyzing a specific piece from the ELC that caught my interest, and i will also show off my own piece of generative fiction in the form of a twitter bot, the thing i spoke highly about in my last blog post.

Star Wars, one letter at a time

http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/stefans__star_wars_one_letter_at_a_time/starwars_one_letter.html

I noticed this piece quite early on in my browsing through the variety of ELC content, and even though it is quite simple, i still found it extremely fascinating. The piece is called “Star Wars, one letter at a time”. The title is very descriptive of the actual work. This piece literally writes out the entire script of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope from 1977, one letter at a time on the webpage. The other important part of it are the distinct sounds you hear of a typewrites, both the button clicking and the windup to change the line being written on the paper.

I found this very fascinating for a variety of reasons. When you watch a movie, you often forget how it all started and just focus on what’s happening in front of you. Especially considering the movie came out as early as 1977, where the electronical capacities weren’t much to brag about. So the piece really does it bets of you putting in the world of the original screenwriter for the movie at the time. And since we definitely aren’t able to get into Star Wars creator George Lucas’ head, why not get into his typewriter and try to see the script from a different angle? The sound effect we get at the end of every line also adds a touch of lettrism to the piece, an art movement where letters were used as sounds and images in the head. If you’ve seen the movie, you can obviously recreate the scenes you’ve already seen in your head as they show up as letters on the screen. But if you haven’t, the piece still works for you. Just like reading a book, you start playing out the letters you read in your head. Definitely a new and fascinating way to look at the script of an all-time classic.

My twitter bot: @Culinary_Advice

Now, we were also told to create our own piece of electronic literature between three different methods: Participate in a #netprov, create our own piece of generative fiction in the shape of a twitter bot or try our hands at a hypertext story. As you might have realized already, i chose to create a twitter bot. Both because i loved them from earlier, and i already had an idea in mind from way earlier that i hadn’t been able to really experiment with until now. And thanks to Zach Whalen’s very easy to understand guide on how make your own both with Google Spreadsheets, it only took me 20 minutes to get my own personal bot up and running.

http://www.zachwhalen.net/posts/how-to-make-a-twitter-bot-with-google-spreadsheets-version-04/

My idea revolved around food recipes. No matter what homemade meal you’re making, they always follow a certain amount of steps. 1. preheat your oven to this – 2. cut up this 3. add this to the bowl, and so on and so on. So what i personally wanted to do with a twitter bot, was see if it could randomly generate illogical and funny sentences out of over hundreds of lines from food recipes to create something enjoyable. And i gave my twitter account the name Culinary_Advice, because what better recipe to follow than a combination of recipes from John Oliver’s own website? As i post this, i have just created the bot and no tweet has been posted yet, but i’ll provide a preview of the account itself and some of the script tests before i put it live right here:

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Quite a telling front page, if you ask me.

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And some previews of what could end up on the account. My personal favorites from this are “If you don’t burn”, “Remove the mayonnaise” and “Cook for about right”. Extremely specific.

And now we’ve reached the end of the 10 course-related blog posts. It’s definitely been a great experience, and it might not even be the end of the blog because it’s been so enjoyable. But for now, it’s been fun.

  • Petter

Intro to electronic literature: Fun genres

A few weeks ago we entered the last part of our DIKULT course for this time: Electronic literature. But my first question entering this subject was the following: why does it have this specific name and not just thrown under the same definition that literature has? Well, turns out it is definitely vastly different.

Electronic literature is hard to explain, but the easy way to describe it is as literature or works created on an electronical device. And for all intents and purposes, that’s where they are supposed to be experienced as well. Sure, people normally write books on their electronical devices like a laptop, but they get printed and published in stores around the world (although the evolution of the internet has led to audio books and E-books as good alternatives). The coolest difference is how the genres are divided between “physical” literature and electronic literature. If you write a book, you might write a mystery novel, a sci-fi novel, or a romantic novel. But in electronic literature, you spice that up a bit. It revolves more around HOW you experience the creation, and revolves less in terms of what it’s about. Figured i could talk about two of my favorite genres in this blog post.

First off, interactive fiction. It’s very different from most of the other genres, although they’re all very different from each other already. Interactive fiction tells a story much like a book or movie does, but gives the reader an influence over the process and outcomes of certain scenarios. Ever since the early text adventure games that were the beginning of this genre, plenty of examples of good interactive fiction has come around, like the multiple-choice genre of it. The fun part about interactive fiction is that it can be used in several mediums. For an example, Netflix has a one hour long compilation of short films about Puss In Boots, cut together in a way that allows the children watching to choose what they want to see next or how they want it to end. It’s also extremely frequently used in video games, where games that focus on their storytelling often allows you your own choice in dialogue, companions and endings based on what you want (Example: Literally ANY Telltale game, some shown in the video above).

I question my own choice defining this as a genre, but i wanna touch on Twitter bots too. I figure most of you know about Twitter, but if not, it’s an online news and social networking service where you interact with messages called “tweets”. Now, Twitter has a lot of bots on their site. A Twitter bot is basically a form of software that controls a Twitter account via their API (Application Programming Interface) and lets the account perform actions like tweeting specific things at your own choice of pace, retweeting, liking and so on. And although there are many bots used for things like benefiting other users, make people think their audience is bigger or skew political opinions, they can be a lot of fun too and be their own form of electronic literature. My personal favorite is @nice_tips_bot. This bot shares life advice from Wikihow to brighten your day. The reason i love this is because it takes something dry (scraped text from random WikiHow articles) and gives it personality. Some could even perceive the advice as well meaning, even though the advice could be terrible out of context. That still makes it an enjoyable read.

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Papa & Yo – a lesson in empathy games

We’ve talked a lot about empathy games during these last few weeks, and i’ve slightly touched on a few of them during the last couple of blog posts. This time i figured i’d go a bit more in depth about one i’ve actually fully played through myself, which is Papa & Yo. At a cost of 100 NOK on your choice of platform, it is definitely worth the money for this short amazing adventure with a dark undertone.

As you can see in the short gameplay clip above, you control a young child called Quico. As Quico, you follow your helpful (and sometimes playfully cruel) sister through a Latin American village made up of realistic pieces, filled with structures that seem to be ordinary family homes. But there’s nothing ordinary about it. Your sister draws outlines with chalk that form into doors. Turning gears makes stairs slide out of some walls. And by pulling levers, you can peel away or unveil new parts of the village. Looking at it strictly from a gameplay perspective, it’s a puzzle game where you perform actions to solve a puzzle and get to the next area to solve more puzzles. But Quico isn’t alone in his lever-pulling and gear-turning.

Quico also has a toy robot named Lula who can help Quico jump farther, reach certain levers and even deliver words of motivation at times. But the most important companion (or enemy) for the game’s thematic and emotional core is Monster. He has a hefty frame and sharp horns, but is mostly docile. He dozes off a lot and is easily led to places Quico want him to go with tempting lemons. He affects the gameplay in a couple of ways. Sometimes Quico has to bounce on Monster’s big belly to reach new heights and sometimes Quico needs Monster to stand on a specific spot to trigger a switch. Through encounters like this, the game creates a meaningful relationship between these two, which gives the game’s story the power it needs

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Because Monster has a dark side. Throughout the levels, there are frogs that jump around. And Monster cannot resist eating these frogs. But when he does, he becomes a frightening creature who chases Quico around and can even toss the little boy around. There’s no penalty for this, because Quico can’t die, but it’s still painful playing through the game and watching this poor little boy being helplessly thrown around. The only way to calm down Monster is by feeding him rotten fruits. It’s not a particularly challenging thing to do, but it holds real emotional impact within the player.

The eventual end goal for Quico is to find a cure for Monster, and i don’t really want to reveal too much about it, because it really is something you should experience for yourself. A child’s imagination is a powerful thing, and it imbues the world with wonderful, taking something mundane and making it powerful and entertaining. It also helps them to cope with real-world problems that are too big and scary to confront the real way. For Quico in this game, it does both of these things. This game doesn’t disrespect it’s audience or trivialize the alcoholism-theme by offering a easy and comforting answer. Like all good fables and fairy tales, this story about a boy using his imagination as an instrument for perseverance in a painful world confronts painful truths to offer us all a realistic foundation for hope. Not only is the game good for children as a game, but as a tale that makes sense of a world or scenario that sometimes doesn’t make sense at all. Definitely something to experience for yourself even as an adult.

  • Petter

Empathy in games – and the risk of including it

Since the last time i wrote on this blog, we’ve spoken a lot about empathy and serious topics in games in class. Can games be serious even though they’re a fun hobby for many people? Can video games induce empathy in people? My personal answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes, but as with many things in life – if it’s done the wrong way, it can either have no effect or even have a negative effect.

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling all the time for a small period of time. It might be hard to fully understand what someone has gone through, but you can imagine the heartbreak or struggles by seeing it from their perspective. Empathy games are a relatively new concept. A type of game that introduces the player to real life issues like depression, the death of someone close, alcoholism or a mental illness. Ever since i was first introduced to the concept, i was a big supporter of it.

Now, earlier i mentioned doing it wrong, which means there’s obviously a way to do it right as well. And luckily there are more good examples then there are bad. The best example i can think of is a game called That Dragon, Cancer, a game we have touched on in class. The creator, Ryan Green, made a game about a young boy suffering from terminal cancer. The main character in that game is his own son, Joel, who was 1 year old when receiving the diagnose. As a way to cope with it, Green started development on this game. “A game of hope in the face of death” as he writes himself. This game accomplishes two very important things. First of all a game like this will give comfort to those who have been through a similar situation and give them reassurance that they are not alone in their struggles, which is an incredible thing for a game to accomplish by itself. But perhaps even more important, since it’s a video game it will reach a far broader audience that has never experienced something like this. And that’s where the term empathy games really come in to play. You get to “sit in the ashes” with someone. If you ever come across someone you know who ends up in a situation like this, people will need love and comfort. They just need someone to sit with, to laugh or cry with or just need a hug. And a game like this will allow you practice that form of care.

Now, part of the success of That Dragon, Cancer comes from the fact that it is quite personal. A part of the creator’s heart and soul is carved into this video game experience, which really helps with making it feel real. You also have Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, where the mental illness portrayed in the game was carefully designed by acquiring the input of people having the actual struggle. If you’re not careful with they way you portray a social issue through game design , you might get something like Spent, a game we also played in class.

Spent is a game about suriving poverty and homelessness, and the game obviously tried to create empathy and understanding surrounding people living in poverty. But when they arranged a study about how people felt about poverty after playing the game, the results seemed to have backfire. The game seemed to produce no positive feelings towards the poor, but the other way around, even for people who were sympathetic toward the poor before playing the game. As you do in many video games, you perform actions, and the actions have consequences. A system like this was used in the game when it was probably far too simplistic for the message and empathy they were trying to provoke. It left players with an impression that if the poor and weak just changed their choices leading up to poverty, they could’ve avoided it altogether.

So in the game, they gave the player complete agency and control over their actions. But as with many situations in life, there are no good choices, or perhaps not even a choice at all. So it was a risky way of trying to create empathy, and it barely worked out. The two games i’ve discussed here are obviously very different in subject matter and design, but they’re both made for the same thing: social learning. Not to mention Spent was the product of an ad company thrown together in a short space of time, while That Dragon, Cancer was one persons passion project for about 3 years. Experience matters with games like these.

So in short words, one has to be careful with how you portray empathy. You can’t just jump on the bandwagon, you have to be careful. After all, you’re making a video game. The next time you see a blog post from me, i will probably focus on one specific empathy game and provide my feedback on what it does right and wrong.

  • Petter

 

Do game genres really tell you anything?

 

We’ve continued our talk about video games in lectures (much to my joy), and we’ve touched on a lot of different aspects like genres, aesthetics, and the history of games. Not to mention the people who have voluntereed to talk about a video game of their choice for varying reasons, who have all done a great job so far. I’ve been more familiar with a few of them than the other ones, but so far they’ve all given an interesting insight on their own personal opinion of it and why they play it. I’m presenting a game myself on Thursday, and i’m actually kind of excited about it. I’ve done a bit of work on it so far, and i worry i might have to cut out quite a lot because i keep thinking of so many specific things and situations that happened during the lifespan of the game to talk about. And i worry that some parts might bore the students who know little about it, so i’m really trying to cherrypick the more interesting parts of both the game and the community around it.

The thing that definitely stuck out to me the most during the lectures this week was the video Mia showed to us that talked about aesthetics within video games – Aesthetics of Play – Redefining Genres in Gaming.

The video presents a new way to talk about genres within video games, and changes the focus on to different aesthetics within video games. Specifically these 9:

Sense pleasure (a game that stimulates one or more of your five senses), fantasy (a game that allows you to take a role you can’t take in real life), challenge (games shaped to be difficult), narrative (game as storytelling), competetion (game where you can express dominance), fellowship (game as a social interactivity where you work together with several people towards a goal), discovery (game where you discover and learn new things), expression (games where you can express your own personality through different means) and abnegation (simply games as a pastime).

Taking a look at these various aesthetics made me consider one thing: Are the traditional genres we have today really useful in any way? One good example i can think of is the age old debate that happens every time a new Call of Duty game or a new Battlefield game is released. When a new game in these series release around the same time, people constantly debate which one is the better FPS (first person shooter). But what’s the point of doing that when they are two completely different types of games that fullfill two completely different purposes?

Here are the traditional traits of the Call of Duty multiplayer: Short matches (around 10 minutes), arcade-like/unrealistic combat (hitscan weapons, meaning where you aim is where your bullets land instantly), 6v6 or 9v9 player matches, small maps, easy to pick up and play, no vehicles.

Now let’s compare that the traditonal Battlefield multiplayer: Much longer matches (anything from 15-30 minutes), realistic physics (weapons like snipers have realistic bullet drop), maps that are 10x the size of a CoD map, 32v32 or 64v64 player matches, harder to learn, and both air and ground vehicles are used excessively in the most popular modes.

The game series play nothing like each other, and fullfill different purposes. You can look at the aesthetics from the video above and see some variation here as well. Both CoD and Battlefield qualify towards things like fellowship and challenges. But they do different things within other areas like expression, where later Call of Duty titles have a bigger emphasis on expression where players can choose how their character looks and how their weapons look on a far more specific scale than Battlefield games. The series also accomplish different kinds of sense pleasure. Battlefield games are more visually stunning with their large-scale maps based on real life war zones and sound design that makes you feel like you’re in a war zone.

Just to end it off i want to acknowledge how maybe developers have caught on to the fact that game genres are very flexible and might not matter all that much as long it’s fun or interesting. Why do i think this? Recently, the latest entry in the Assassin’s Creed series, Origins, did something that both made people go “that’s a great idea” and also “why haven’t they done this before?” The game usually revolves around taking the part of an assassin from various time periods depending on the game and taking out various bad guys either through stealth or sword combat. But a few months after release they added a discovery mode, which lets you explore Ancient Egypt on your own leisure, and receive historical facts about the areas they have faithfully recreated in the game. A very interesting twist on the base game.

But yeah, that might be enough for this time. A really insightful week, that really made me think about genres and changed my opinion on how valuable they are in terms of classifying games.

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Video games (!)

As we finally return to DIKULT103 classes after a 2 week break, we kickstart a part of the course i didn’t even realize would be a part of it. The gaming-related part of the course. This obviously excited me from the start. I’ve been a lover of video games since early primary school, and i have touched on them a few times in my blog posts so far.

Gaming is hard to define. What is a game? And what type of gamer are you? Two topics that were discussed durings this weeks lectures. Mia categorized us into four different groups of gamers, and the nature of each group really made wonder which one i actually fit into. Or if anyone who plays games manage to only relate to one of them.

We start of with the casual gamer. Someone who perceives gaming as a hobby used to relax. Doesn’t really know much about gaming, and primarily plays stuff on their phone on their free time for example. No specific motivation, just relaxation. A category i cannot relate to at all, to say the least. I barely touch mobile games.

Then the social gamer. A gamer whose motivation is to connect with friends and strangers through the gaming medium. What they play is often decided by their social circle. FPS multiplayer games like Call of Duty and Battlefield or MMOs like Black Desert Online and World of Warcraft (or just any multiplayer game) is popular amongst these guys. And i definitely fit into this category. Playing games alone is fun and all that, but the experience is often enhanced when you have someone to share it with. I didn’t really experience this category personally until a few years ago, which i will explain to later in the post.

The third category is the specialist gamer. The specialist is a passionate video game player. A specialist gamer knows what type of video game they like, and want to get the most out of their experience in a certain category of games. I definitely fit into this category as well. Ever since i discovered video games i have played a wide variety of them. But i seem to find myself constantly returning to the FPS genre. Every time a new Call of Duty or Battlefield game is released, i play the hell out of it for at least a couple of months. And when a new FPS game hits the scene, i am most likely going to try it out and even put a good amount of time into it (examples of these games: Titanfall 1 and 2, DOOM, Rainbow Six: Siege).

And last but not least, the expert gamer. Not necessarily a skilled gamer, but definitely passionate about them. When not in front of a gaming console, they spend time reading about them, researching possible new games to play and follow the video game scene in form of conventions and e-sports events. Another category i can definitely relate to. As i’m writing this post, i’m actually watching a live Call of Duty e-sports event, one of many that takes place throughout the year. I also watch a lot of Youtube videos, no matter if they’re just let’s plays, funny montages or helpful tips to enhance my own skill in a specific game. So on some level, i relate to three out of the four categories Mia presented to us.

Back in the day, i was much more of just an expert gamer. I played a wide variety of games, did a lot of research on them and always found myself excited looking into what was next. But i definitely took a step into the socialist and specialist categories during September 2014. The release of “Destiny”.

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Destiny: The beautiful mess of a game

I wanna talk a little bit about Destiny in this blog post. In a couple of weeks i’m gonna present a game showcase of this very game during one of the lectures, and i couldn’t find a more perfect example to talk about than this game. So i’m gonna bring up a few things here that i might not be able to fit into the showcase due to a limited presentation time. I had seen a lot of videos and articles about this game in the weeks up to it’s release, and i was extremely hyped about it. It presented itself like a blend of the traditional FPS genre and the time-investing MMO genre. And it was made by the company that gave us the brilliant series of Halo games, Bungie. What was there not to be excited about?

The release date came around, and i had it in my hands a day early because the pre-order came in early. The first few days with it in my possession ended up consisting of waking up, going to school, getting back home to eat, and then play it until my eyes couldn’t take it anymore. I absolutely loved the gunplay, and the world we were put into was graphically beautiful. But as the days passed, i was starting to have my doubts. I completed the story campaign, and found myself disappointed. The story made very little sense. Some of the secondary characters had stupid dialogue like “I don’t have time to explain why i don’t have time to explain”, and the final boss was basically one of the mid-game boss fights, but this time there were three of the same big guy. And after completing the story and reaching the “endgame”, the part of the game where you’re supposed to put in the most time and grind your way to the best guns, seemed empty and full of unfulfilling repetition. After completing the campaign, you only had a certain amount of things you could do. Strikes, which were missions playable with 3 people with tons of adds and a big boss to defeat at the end. They all felt the same, and gave out little reward. Nightfalls, which were harder versions of the strikes with modifiers like extra solar damage or extra melee damage, that were your only source of upgradable gear at release but forced you to party up with people beforehand. And then the Crucible, the PvP part of the game, randomly dealing out either terrible rewards or a great gun out of nowhere.

I lost interest quickly. I played it from time to time the following months when i was bored. I even had the season pass, which meant i had access to the two following downloadable content packs. And that’s when things started to catch up. Most of my friends had given up on the game already, which meant i had to resort to finding random teammates through sites like reddit or http://www.destinylfg.net/ to find people to do the endgame activites with. When the second downloadable content pack came out, titled House of Wolves, Bungie introduced a new mode: Trials of Osiris. This was the competetive PvP part of the game, where premade teams of three people matched up and played against each other in a survival gametype where if you died, you had to be revived. And you had to win 5 rounds to win the match. And by playing this you could earn exclusive armor pieces or weapons related to the game mode.

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Again, all of my friends had given up, so i had to find random teammates. Every weekend i would go on earlier mentioned sites and find teammates, often with little success. We would win a couple of games, lose a couple of games and then disband and never talk again. It all changed during the summer of 2015, when i met some random people and actually made it to the highest honor in the game with them, the Lighthouse. You had to win 9 games in a row without losing to make it there. The weekend after that, they invited me again. And ever since that, i had a big group of 15-20 people to play Destiny with daily. Bungie continued to take critique from their audience and continually improved and added to this game, and it kept people playing. Especially the people who loved the Crucible partr of it. I played the two following expansions with them and even through those for nearly 2 years and over a 1000 hours in-game, and still to this day we play different games with each other.

I’m gonna save the rest of my Destiny talk for my showcase, but this is just an example of how one gaming experience can change your own gaming personality, and how a big community of helpful people can exist purely because of a video game.

The roots of inspiration

This is gonna be the first of two blog posts today. Before we went on a two week break due to a series of unlucky events, i got massively distracted the weekend we were supposed to post our 4th blog of the semester and i just completely forgot about it. Mia reminded us that this was the week we were supposed to put up our 5th blog post, and as i quickly scrolled through my own blog i realized i was one short. So today you’re all lucky enough to get a double post. I don’t remember much from the week i was supposed to put up this very blog post, but i did remember that was the week where the studio visit with Emilio Varavella took place. So with a lack of memory, a rewatch of it was absolutely necessary to get a hint of inspiration. And inspiration is mainly what this post will be about. Varavella is an artist with lots of amazing art and from what i’ve seen through my life and experienced myself, acquiring an interest in something like art always requires a sense of things like exploration, research and inspiration to develop your own style of doing that very thing.

When Varavella took student questions from twitter, he talked about his own inspiration and interest in art and also his first encounters with technology and how it all shaped him. All of this made me think of my own encounters with the same stuff, and where it has put me today. I was born in 1997, so the internet was still very much a thing, although quite fresh. And the same thing goes for cellphones. My family had internet before i was even born, and when i first got my hands on it it was on a big white bulky desktop computer running Windows 2000. I didn’t get to use the internet on it for while until i was around the age of 11-12, but before that i did get to play games on it. You had the classics on it like Minesweeper and Solitaire. I remember my first video game experience being a PC version of the game show “Do You Want to Be a Millionaire” (that’s a classic for you, huh?). Me and my sister would use encoclypedia books when we ran out of lifelines to get all the way to that sweet, virtual one million dollars. This might have been the start of my video game addiction, which will be the subject of my next post.

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When the day came around where i was finally allowed internet access, i didn’t do much else in my spare time. Few of my classmates were allowed phones yet, so we all resorted to a specific medium to keep in touch outside of class when we weren’t able to go outside or lived too far apart; MSN. The conversations we had on there weren’t exactly packed with content, though. They always went something like this: Person 1 says “hi”, person 2 says “hi” back, person 1 asks “what’s up”, person 2 says “not much, you?”, and person 1 says “same”. And that was just about it. One of the things i always liked doing with MSN was change my status bar. It was a tiny bar under your name you could edit and put in whatever you wanted to represent how you felt at the moment, imply what you were doing so no one would bother you with a conversation or just put random stuff in. I always liked messing around with smileys in that status bar and rearrange them into several different combinations to create my own personal kind of art. Looking back at it now, it was probably a predecessor and one of many inspirations to my current interest in graphic design.

When i was picking something to study for high school, it took me ages to find out what i wanted to do. But at the last day of selections, my final choice fell on “media and communcation”. And boy, am i glad that i did. I always had an underlying fascination for creating things in the form of videos or graphic art, but never really had the tools or courage to do so. But when i started studying the subject, i finally had the tools. We always created a variety of things during my 3 years of high school, such as animation, short films, and photography with all the Adobe programs and high-class equipment you could imagine. But every time that we had a end-of-semester exam where we got to work on something of our own choosing, i always did something related to graphic design in Photoshop or Illustrator. I loved taking movies, video games or TV shows and creating my own posters or different kinds of art related to those things. Luckily i have managed to dig up some of these works, all saved on a hard drive because my laptop back then had zero space (and all the files from said high school work obviously took up a lot of space quickly). I’ll show off 3 examples, simply because i have way too many to introduce in one blog post.

The first piece of work is a simple poster for the ever popular TV show Breaking Bad. This was pretty much the only TV show i had fully completed back then, and i loved it to death. The poster pretty much just consists of the main actor’s names and the distinct outfit of the main character in the show, Heisenberg. This was my distinct style of graphical work back then: Take characters and enhance their traits by removing everything else and focusing on the distinct traits.

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The last two pieces of work come from the same project. For an “exam” i wanted to do more of these kinds of posters, but one obviously didn’t qualify as enough work. So i made five posters, all revolving around the movie The Avengers. And the same distinct traits as the Breaking Bad poster come up again. The first one specifies one character in the movie, Thor. This was the single character poster i was pleased the most about at the time, because of the difficulty of selecting what traits should be pictured in the poster to not make it a complete mess. The other one shows off all 4 characters i made a poster of in a simplistic way. Obviously, there are more Avengers, but i only had so much time.

Thor poster

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As you can tell, most of my inspiration comes from work done by others. But seeing what other people have done, often inspires me to reach up to that level myself or do something completely different on my own with the same idea. I haven’t done much of this after high school, but i still got all my Adobe programs and this trip down memory lane might inspire me yet again.

 

Digital art – lots of it

This week we have been looking at digital art again. But this time digging deeper inti the contents of the art, how it’s shaped and how various people interpret it. Before high school came along i was never much into digital art, but after 5 years of media-related courses across high school/university i’ve come across and analyzed quite a few pieces by now. And still to this day i’m introduced to some sort of art piece unlike anything i’ve seen before on a weekly basis.

This time around said piece was the digital art piece “Sky Magic”, which combines Shamisen music, the World Heritage site Mt. Fuji and drones covered in LED lights to a spectacular degree.

With a piece like this, there’s a lot of small things to pick apart. The thing i find most impressive about this piece is the transformation for the drone part of the piece. When drones first became a thing, they were perceived as nothing but stupid toys by a lot of people. But through the years people have now come to terms with them as a utility item, using them for things such as breathtaking visuals in vlogs or as we see in Sky Magic, art.

And combining what was once perceived as a stupid toy with the traditional japanese guitar and the landscape not only shows the evolution of the drone, but the embracement of the relationship between nature and technology.

Speaking of evolution, you thought Sky Magic was cool, right? Well, then you probably didn’t see the opening ceremony for this year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang (i don’t blame you, time zones are funky this time around).

This ceremony also included drones, creating different images directly over the main arena. While Sky Magic contained 20 drones flying around synchronized with a total of 16,500 LED lights attached, the Olympic ceremony could brag about their 1200 drones doing the same thing (you can do the math on the amount of LED lights yourself). This just tells me we’ve still got ways to go and many more things we can do in the sense of digital art when there’s only a few years between these two examples.

-Petter

Electronic literature: video games

 

And we’re back at it again this week with another blog post. On a sunday, as will probably become a tradition for 2 reasons: I am fantastic at procrastination and i am terrible at coming up with good reflections over the things we have been taught over the week, so i spend a lot of time on it. With that in mind, having to write a weekly blog post will hopefully improve me in both of those areas. The reflection part might actually be the roughest one for me, but one specific lecture this week actually made it very doable for me this time around.

And the specific lecture i am referring to is the one we had on Wednesday with guest lecturer Dr. Leonardo Flores, where he talked about the three generations of electronic literature. This lecture was really interesting to me, and it was not because i had never heard the term before. I had an idea about what it was. What i did not realize was exactly how broad the term could go because it is so hard to define and how much of it i have experienced or seen myself. After putting some thought into and focusing on the modern side of electronic literature, i’ve realized how prevalent video games can be within electronic literature.

I love video games and have spent a lot of time on them, and by doing that i have visited a vast amount of genres within video games. And while many of the games i have played have revolved around the FPS genres and more action-related genres like that, i have encountered quite a few video games that are more visual novels than they are games. One of my personal favorites is a game called The Wolf Among Us, which is made by a company called Telltale Games, who are infamous for their episodic adventure games. The game is based on the comic book series that goes by the name Fables from the 1980s, in a dark universe where animalistic creatures have to disguise themselves as humans to survive in the slums of New York. (If this in any ways peak your interest, here’s a full playthrough of the first episode out of five.)

The main reason i like these types of games is because it sort of a revolution of storytelling. Imagine yourself eading a book, and based on a description of example a character you imagine him or her in your head. Or an exciting or action-packed scene plays out in the book, and you imagine every single detail in your head based on descriptions. In a video game like this, you get to see these types of things through the eyes of the developers and how they imagined it themselves. Of course, this game is based on a comic book series, so characters pulled from the actual comic books look pretty much the same. But it’s still a different experience seeing the characters perform lifelike actions with the graphics that are possible today, compared to the still pictures from a comic book made 30 years ago.

Another interesting part of these games is the way the people who created it often make you control one specific character, and push buttons to make the character perform the actions you would like to see. In a way, that ejects a bit of your own personality into the character you are controlling. This brings a wide array of possibilities to the act of storytelling. More precisely in the form of constructing difficult scenarioes or even simple dialogue choices you have to choose between in order to progress the story, that also changes the outcome of certain scenarios in the future and maybe even the ending itself. Exposing the consumer to these sorts of things are a fun way to make the story feel more dynamic and really make it feel like you are in control of the story, even though the amount of things that can happen are limited.

Well, i could talk for ages about video games, but i’ll have to limit myself in this blog post. I’ll end it of with a nice #DDA i did a few hours ago, which again shows of my love for gaming (this was not on purpose, i swear.)

Petter