Saturday, 14 May 2011

BFI Gold

The BFI Southbank cinema complex is a godsend to all movie lovers around the world.

After arriving to the UK just days past, one of the first things I thought about was making sure I made it my mission to go to as many events and screenings as possible at this fantastic venue for all things films.

This month they are focusing on KINO Cinema, or in other words, The Russian history of filmmaking.
Starting of was a screening of the fantastic Eisenhover movie "Battleship Potemkin", a subliminal masterpiece and one of the most influentel flicks ever put-togheter. Defining the art of the montage and using music to create both mood and rytm.

The film still holds up as well today as it did decades ago and its historical significance can`t be overstated.
I would encourage anybody who has any kind of interest for the cinema to visit the BFI this month.

You can find the venue and all the information you need here:

Until next time, Keep watching!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Bill of right and Piracy

So, I heard about this just recently when listening to The PC Gamer Podcast and the main focus was on DRM and Digital Distribution, something that was interconnected with their interview with Crysis Watheads Lead Designer. Crytech is a company that was hit hard by PC piracy when their game Crysis was release a while back, they did not recover from it. They now have to develope for multiple formats, no longer only PC. This is because of the piracy.

Now, all you guys out there who do Pirate PC games, why do you do it? I want to hear your reasons. Why is it that everytime some one comes out and talks down on PC piracy, you guys get on a upproar? What is it that makes you think this is OK?

I want to hear your opinions, take this time and speak out!

Now, from my perspective, it is utterly crazy to deffend Piracy in any shape or form. It is moraly wrong and it is stealing. Just because it is easy, comfortable and free, doesn`t make it legal and right. Think about it, you install and play a game, that has been in development for multiple years, you don`t pay these guys anything and expect what?… to get sympathy, to be taken serious?.

If you do not pay for the products, they will not be bale to make them anymore. If you do not pay for PC products, the PC market will slowly die and by taking down a plattform, it will automaticly raise the prices on other plattforms.

Think about it, it is a serious crime toward your friends, the community, the game developers and everyone who pirate should feel somewhat ashamed.

Now, you can trow dirt on me as much as you like, the microphone is free and the lines are open.

Friday, 15 January 2010

The problems with games: The length

Why was the game only 3 hours long? we want added value!; give us multiplayer!, Oh and by the way, why aren`t more people playing this awesome, entertaining and epic game that I love?

I will give you my reason why they aren`t, the game is too long. That is the one of the major hurdles games face today. They are entertainment, but not mainstream entertainment; the vast majority of moviegoers do not play these games that we love, even though they offer, in many cases, a greater experience than that of, like say Halloween 2 or even Avatar.

But people don`t flock to Assassins Creed 2, they don`t pick up Uncharted 2 or Batman: Arkham Asylum, and why is that? Well, my sense is that they have been burnet before, they know that if they are picking this title up, start playing it, then they will have to invest, at least 7-8 hours to finish the story arc, they will have to put in an additional 10-20 hours to get the “full experience” of every nock and cranny that the game designer has put in there.

When you go to see a movie or sit down to watch your favorite series, you know that you can get a satisfying and full experience in about 2 hours. No more, no less, right. You know that the time after that will be allocated to something else, you can relax and plan. When you play a game, you don`t know how many hours you have to allocate in order to get through the full story, you cannot end the experience that night or in a set amount of time, that drives people away.

Don`t get me wrong, I love video games, I grew up with them and to me this is not a major problem, but it has started to get on my nerves. When I sit down to play Assassins Creed, I find myself thinking; this would have been much more enjoyable if every city had been a separate episode, or when I am playing Batman; why couldn`t each boss have been this evenings episode of my favorite Batman series? Why do I have to stop playing this game tonight when I want to find out what happens next? I have to work tomorrow so I cannot play any longer, but it feels like I have 20 more hours to go, for god’s sake, let me have a complete experience this evening, don`t tease me like this.

For me, experiments like Tell Tales games, The Siren game on PS3 and other episodic style releases is the future and also a way to make games more accessible. “Let me finish this episode tonight, we can even watch it together sweetie”, I want to have that conversation in my house, not: “thanks for the dinner Hun, now, let me just disappear for 6 hours while you sit there in front of the TV and watch your CSI”. That is in most cases a deal breaker.

Television and movies are acceptable because they offer you an experience in a set amount of time and it can most often be a shared one, games do not give us this option, in most cases. This is why games should move to a more episodic like concept and offer a complete story in one evening. It doesn`t have to be the full story, but a small portion of the main story arc. I believe that interactive entertainment will suit this coming generation much more than non interactive ones and the challenge will be to tailor this to suit everyone, make it accessible and limited.

I don`t want long games to disappear, but we can have both, and they can be of the same quality, but we should not exclude one over the other. Also, the price for an episodic style game does not need, and should not be, more expensive than a regular one. Just make the episodes cheaper and see to it that the end package don`t exceed the price of, say $50.
They future is here right now, grasp it with all you got!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Character is King

When studying Game Design, one of my favorite subjects is character & characterization. These two elements are also the most important aspects of a game for me.That is why, when playing RPG`s, I often tend to play the eastern developed games. This is because, for Western developers, truly unlike character is rare to see. Also, they tend to focus more on open ended selection for players, i.e. you decide who the character should be.

This is not ideal for my taste, I like when a character is introduced to me, or rather, when the characterization is deep and the character is allowed to evolve, expand trough game play. This is when a game really captures me. It has happened many times, Ico is good example, Final Fantasy 10 another one, and finally, the master of this is Hideo Kojima.One company, a Japanese one that is bad regarding character design would be Nintendo. Now, don`t be mad, when I say character design, I mean the design of the deep character, nothing else. Look at Mario, does he evolve? Is the characterization that much different from his character? in my mind, no. But of course, this does not make me dislike Mario games, but it makes the games more suitable for a younger audience. Can you name one character, developed in-house by Nintendo that has a deep character?So, when writing a story arc, where should the focus be, on the character or the characterization? let`s call this, character VS characterization.

Robert McKee writes, "True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure", who is the character beneath the characterization, what choices would she really make, having two options. The first one cruel, the second one kind? What is a character without her "true character"? With this we can say that characterization in games must always come second too character, that is, if we want a compelling story. And the climax must always be good; the last arc always comes first, nullifying any given characterization.Rambo is a character gone wrong with time, what happened with Rambo? The first time we saw him, he was a tired Vietnam soldier, coming home from a war. Tired of war and conflict. A loner, wandering around by himself, compelling character. Provoked by a sheriff with too much testosterone, out came Rambo, a true killer, merciless (true character). After this, and in movie sequels, Rambo never returned to his former self. In the end, he became a very one dimensional character, he could be compared to a Saturday morning cartoon show figure. Multi-dimensional character is off great importance.This kind of Game design, or story development, is best implemented by Japanese developers, in my mind.

More often than not, character is king over characterization. That is why, in many cases, we can see the same characterization over and over again, but still be intrigued, i.e. the school boy who suddenly finds himself a hero. This works, because the boy can have a multitude of character traits, and it can be as deep as the writer wants it to be. So, because of this we can play 10 RPG games, all with the same characterizations but with vastly different characters.What do you think of this, do you have any examples of great character in video games? Feel free to leave comments!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Digital distribution

Do you remember when driving to the store was a necessity for getting a game? Or when you had to get your butt off the sofa in order to get a good, competitive matchup at your local arcade place? Or maybe when you had a buddy along your side, playing split-screen games, laughing, drinking and having a blast at your home? Don`t you miss these moments, these social events or feelings when you really get to buy and hold a physical copy of a game? If you do, you should continue to read this article, as we start to discuss the future of digital distribution.

Is the path we are on today really the way to go? We now have all these 24h connected devices everywhere, in our pocket, at our home and maybe, even in our cars. You can download games, play online with your friends (and new friends), we get our news in a snap, mainly from blogs, resulting in closings all over the place, mainly in print media. Should these “new” online options really be the future for us, sadly yes?

If we begin with the print media, we can see, with the recent closing of many mainstream gaming papers in the states, that it is sadly an end of an era. Printing press cannot withstand the avalanche that is mainstream blogs and online publications. The news should come quickly, it should be brief and today’s generation also wants moving images or audio for everything. This is a generational question, many in my age, that grew up during an era when online discussions was mainly done trough IRC channels, do not want the print media to disappear, we still want to read long articles, see nice images, printed on good quality papers, and we also want to have physical editions to take out and remember from later on. This is not the case with the youth today.

It is an old cliché, but the young generation is always the ones shaping the future and making revolts in different ways. Print media will be gone, completely in 10 years time, and if these companies want to survive, they need to shift all resources to the online space. Give people HD material, many video options, good articles, user generated options and so on.

The second thing to talk about is the rise of digital downloads/stores. This has become a mainstream option for many companies today, the biggest reason for this is the new generation of consoles that now offer the same thing that PC has done for ages, downloads, stores and so on. The second reason is the … of broadband lines. Now, when the online options is being transferred to the living room, where you mostly spend your time, also, where the family gathers, the option for companies to reach out to its customers is huge today. It is imperative that companies succeeds in this field, and we will definitively see more corporate pushing in this online market, if these will need to cooperate with Sony or Microsoft to do this in the future, that remains to be seen, but it is the future none the less.

Notable is also that it is now easier than ever for children to buy gods from companies trough their console. Just think back on your own youth, how much stuff would you not have gotten if it was this easy to buy new games and such? You do not need a car, you do not need to ask your parents, just buy, buy, and buy!

For me, digital distribution and online stores is just fine, but it needs to be regulated. It needs to have a good interface; companies must begin to take away shovel ware, unnecessary games and peripherals, regulate game company’s decisions, so that they do not take advantage of these options, offering over priced add-ons and so on. These things are imperative in order to get a good, wholesome, online console space.

Friday, 23 January 2009

What is art... to me?

I found myself pondering this question after watching Sleeping Beauty and subsequently reading a book called: Once Upon a Time: The true inspiration for Disney Animators. A book, rich with lavishly painted pictures and great comparisons between the arts that inspired the more simplified cartoons that followed.

I began asking myself, what is art, really? And how does it differ to animation or drawings? Do I like art, just as a love animation? If not, why?
These questions made me begin to write this little piece. Now, how does this relate to games? I am sorry to say, not much, but it is there, in the back of my mind as well. We often talk about the importance of games, being referred to as “pieces of art”, but is that really so important, and if not, how so?

Well, to me, art is something distant, hard to reach and requires a great deal of imagination and thought from its viewer. Art has always been hard for me to “get”. Why is that? Well, it may be that, to me, it is hard to enjoy and feel something, from a piece of work that has no “character” or, you could even argue, soul.

Art, in its most simple form, is without character, it is a picture that requires you to imagine on your own, you have to create the world, just as a reader has to make meaning out of simple letters. A piece of art does not live on its own merits; it requires you to think and to dream. This is why art, just as books, can fit any taste, but not any age. Children have a hard time appreciating art, as opposed to animation. Adults seems to be drawn more to art the older they get, and animation becomes (in most cases) something reserved for the childhood or the coming children of your own family.

This became most apparent to me, after reading the first few pages of the mentioned book, from the beginning of this text. It was a drawing from one of the earliest drawings of Mickey Mouse, and to the right, there were an illustration from the inspirations for this Mickey character. To me this was startling, the picture on the right was a piece of art, drawn by a famous German painter, but the illustration said nothing to me, it was a very dull painting. The piece had a mouse on it, playing the violin to four bystanders, four snails actually. But the mouse and its onlookers had no character, it was just a mouse playing a human instrument, and it felt a bit scary. It is a good example of how we can be scared by something that not fit.
In the meantime, on the left, you had a mouse, a plane and a pig. Now this would be an even scarier situation if it was drawn realistically and plain, but here we find something else, namely, character. Even the little plane in the drawing had character; you could associate the plane with a wild, untamed animal.

Now, where do I go with this? Well, these are the main differences to me between animation and art. It also serves to say that art is not something that games should aspire to. Games should be more like animation. There should be life, created trough the animators mind and hands. Games could aspire to look more like art, if we take the example of Sleeping Beauty. This was a movie, created with one goal in mind, “captivate the art”; this is why Euyvind Earl became the lead animator on the project. Earle was not an animator, but rather a production designer. He did not create animation, he drew the background art for the pictures, he created the worlds in which the animators then would create and place characters into. Now, think back to your childhood, remember Sleeping Beauty and your impressions of it, was it a thrilling ride, is it one of your favorite Disney films? If the answer is no, then I would like to try and explain why you felt that way.

In my mind, this is because the pacing, the characters and the “soul” of the picture did not have the main attention from the crew, the art did. This made Sleeping Beauty a marvelous piece of animation that would hold up even today. As an adult I appreciate it for the art, the backgrounds and the color schemes are breathtaking, but the story and the characters are, sadly enough, bystanders. There are fantastic characters in the story, but they take a sidestep to the art. This is only one of Disney`s many films, and we can overlook, I think, this little experiment from Disney and love it for what it is, but I hope you see my point of view here.

Games should not be art, this because games should create Aesthetics, forged out from dynamics made from mechanics. N other words, games should not be a passive experience, nor should it be a painting, or a book. In my way of seeing art, this is what would happen to a game if art took the main stage.

No, a game should be more like animation; Imaginative, colorful and rich in character.
For me, art is fantastic in its own way and unparalleled as a source for inspiration and concepts. But Animation and drawings has something that art can never achieve… true character.