Portal 2

Portal 2 is a first-person puzzle platform game developed and released by Valve in 2011 as a sequel to the original Portal released in 2007.

The setting of the game happens in the test lab of Aperture Science, where the super AI GLaDOS controls everything in the company and conducts ‘experiments’ on test subjects like Chell – the main protagonist of the game. You play as Chell to solve different kinds of puzzles presented by GLaDOS using the portal gun given to you.

Game play video:

Elemental Tetrad:

  1. Mechanics: The main goal of the game is to solve puzzles using the portal gun and other actions. In the first half of the game the player solves the puzzles presented by GLaDOS, in the second half of the game, the player tries to escape from the test lab by completing puzzles as well. The game is designed into multiple chapters and maps, some of them being huge both in horizontal and vertical scales, making common maneuvers in video games insufficient to complete the levels in this game and the use of portals a necessary part of the game.
  2. Story: The main conflict of the game is between Chell and GLaDOS. This conflict unfolds the background behind the company Aperture Science and hints the story behind Chell’s parents. The story also justifies the purpose of GLaDOS and the reveals the technology that empowers the portal guns and other supernatural phenomenon happening in the test lab.
  3. Aesthetics: Portal 2 is a first-person 3D game and looks like just like every other first-person 3D game if you have not actually played it. After playing the game, you can tell the designers really put a lot of effort into the aesthetics. The aesthetics really helped the players to better understand the mechanics and follow the story of the game. For example: Surfaces that can be put a portal on and surfaces that cannot be put a portal on have different textures.
  4. Technology: Portal 2 was developed using the Source engine and made available on Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStaion and Xbox. So there are a lot of ways to interact with the game including mouse, keyboard, gamepad. The game also has a multiplier co-op mode, so internet connection is required to be able to play in this mode.

The Lens of Obstacle

The obvious goal is to complete the puzzles presented by GLaDOS and escape the test lab, and it is motivated by Chell’s survival instinct. The obvious obstacles are GLaDOS’s attempts to stop and kill you. However, the obstacles are also puzzles and they can be very interesting to solve. In a way, the obstacles improve the player’s ability to better at the game.  Both Chell and GLaDOS are transforming subtly during the process as they realize they might have a deeper relationship than just normal test conductor and test subjects. This transformation made the game more engaging and drives the player to finish the game to find out more about their relationship.

The Lens of Fatasy

I think this game fulfills the fantasies of many people – teleport through portals. Many people have fantasied about having the ability of teleport through space to accomplish things that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Portal 2 just gives the player this ability and let the them complete goals using the power to gain a sense of accomplishment.

 

The Lens of Character

GLaDOS, despite being the ‘bad guy(girl)’ in this game, has a very fascinating personality. She is evil, sadistic, but as you play you would realize GLaDOS is the only one in the game that truly matters or cares for you. She always expects you to be better at what you do, in a way just like parents always hope their kids to be better. Actually, this is very possible GLaDOS is Chell’s mother according to many highly convincing theories online. Plus the fact that GLaDOS is also very funny, often cracking jokes in a trying-to-be-funny monotonous robotic tone, it makes the character seem very rich and realistic.

The Lens of Time

Portal 2 does not have a ticking clock in most part of the game, as it is mostly a puzzle game. Having a time constraint would not be a good idea as the time which different players need to figure out how to solve them can vary. However the boss fight finale has a literal ticking clock to create a sense of tension and emergency for the player, making the ending after completing the fight especially relieving and touching.

 

Assignment 1 – Game Analysis

Assignment 1: Game Analysis for Mappy

Description:

The game I am discussing is Mappy. It is action game distributed twenty years ago first as arcade game. Player controls the character Mappy, a mouse to collect items while avoid being caught by cats within a mansion. Mappy and the cats move between floors with the trampoline. The trampoline will break if Mappy stays on it for more than 4 rounds. Mappy can open the nearest door it faces to obstruct cats or passes through. There are 2 types of door, 1 blinking and the other not blinking. Opening the blinking door will release a wave and catch the cats along with it.

Try the game: http://www.retrogames.cz/play_008-NES.php?language=EN

Lens of Elemental Tetrad

Aesthetic

Considering the game is created 20 years ago, the images drawn were quite ok.

Mechanics

Mainly running left and right, jumping onto trampoline and move to the other level. Other than that is to open or close a door in the direction of the player

Technology

The game is available on arcade, Nintendo and now on PC. Controls are straightforward and easy

Story

There is no Storyline in Mappy, as it is just the player collecting items while running from the enemies.

Lens of Fun

The game is fun as structure of each levels are different, thus creating a different strategy to obstruct and avoid the enemies while collecting items. Included in the game is hidden bonus, where the player collect items in pair give bonus points. Other than the normal stages, there is also some bonus stage where you can collect numbers of balloon within a time limit.

Lens of Problem Solving

The player needs to find a way to delay approaching enemies while preventing sandwich by enemies.

Lens of Emergence /Time

There is a time limit within each level of the game. When time exceeds limit, it shows “Hurry” word in the game, the background music will be faster and the enemies will increase and become faster, giving the player a sense of urge to complete the level.

Lens of Simplicity/ Complexity

The rules of Mappy is very simple and straightforward: collect the items before getting caught and move to the next level or get caught and lose the game.

There are only 3 control buttons: Left, Right and A/B for moving left or right and open or close the door.

The player can understand the game within minutes.

Lens of Visible Progress

Other than the first 5-10 stages that are quite easy, the progress can be visible through the change of color of mansion and the stage modification.

Minecraft

What is this game?

Minecraft is a game where people explore the virtual world full of blocks with tools created by themselves. Player can experience all kinds of scenery of the generated world, on himself, or with a group of friends.

It is a famous game among all players around the world. It has a lot of attractive points which make many players fall in love with it.

Players are spawn at a initial spawn point on the ground level of a generated world. The world contains a lot of blocks, such as dirt, wood, stone blocks which are most common, and fluid blocks containing water blocks and lava blocks. Players need to obtain some of these useful blocks in order to build tools for safer survival and further exploration. Players can farm (crops and animals), fish, mine, and build.

There are many monsters existing in Minecraft world, and some of them are quite powerful. In order to survive from their attacks, players need to improve their gears and defeat them.

Official site: https://minecraft.net

The lens of Curiosity:

In the generated world in Minecraft, there are so many different biomes, such as extreme hills, seas, rivers, forests, ice plains, swamp lands and deserts. There are also many caves of different shapes deep into the ground, with a lot of treasures and different kinds of monsters in them. While playing this game, players will be motivated to become very curious about the unexplored part of the world, and in order to survive and approach their own goals, they will become addicted to the exploration.

In order to survive for a longer time and achieve higher goals, players need to think of ways to create anything that may help them survive. This is really interesting, especially to a new player. There are recipes of creating tools which are not at all taught in the game, and players need to discover these recipes on themselves. Players can also create enchantment tables and cauldrons to enchant their tools and create potions, to make their work of exploration more efficient and make the survival easier. Players always want to become stronger so that they will be able to reach the goals, so they will be curious at finding out these recipes.

The lens of Cooperation:

Minecraft Players can cooperate with each other through different ways. A player can host a world, and other player can join through local area network. Therefore, a group of friends can explore the world together. There is a in-game chatting tool for players to chat. With the cooperation of friends, the survival can become a lot easier, making the goals easier to achieve.

The lens of Challenge:

There is an achievement system in Minecraft. It is actually like a guide on how to experience everything important in this game. It looks like a tree, from the root to leaves, with achievements ranked from easy to hard. These achievements are not like those in other games, which are very detailed tutorials to the game. Two continuous missions are really ‘far’ from each other, which means that you will take a lot of time to proceed to the next achievement from the current one you are on. For example, the achievement after ‘Monster Hunter’ (Attack or destroy a monster) is ‘Sniper Duel’ (Kill a skeleton with an arrow from more than 50 meters), which is super hard. But thanks to these challenging missions, anyone will take a long time to master this game.

Some of the achievements will require players to proceed to another dimension. There are two dimensions in Minecraft besides the normal one (the Overworld): the Nether and the End. More powerful monsters exist in these two dimensions, along with more treasures. There are even boss creatures in Minecraft, which are really hard to defeat. All of these made this game very challenging.

The lens of Fun:

Since Minecraft is a sandbox game, players can choose their own lifestyles. Some players want to challenge themselves and aims to defeat the Ender Dragon, but some like to live peacefully in a small cottage by the sea. Some want to build magnificent palaces or even cities, and some even built a CPU using the Redstone! Everyone can find his/her own way of enjoying Minecraft.

Players with programming background can even write their own mods and share them to other players. Mods are like extensions of the game, so players can modify their game experience on their own, which makes this game even more fun.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Gameplay screenshot from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Witcher 3 is an open world third-person role-playing action game that is based on a fantasy novel series. Witcher 3 is the third game in the Witcher trilogy. It picks up after the ending of Witcher 2, in which the protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter known as a witcher, attempts to reunite with Yennifer (his friend and lover) and Ciri (his adopted daughter) who are currently chased by a mysterious antagonistic group called the “Wild Hunt”. Players play as Geralt and fight against both monsters and humans using his swords and magic powers called “Signs”. Apart from the fulfilling the main storyline, players can also embark on the numerous side quests strewn across the huge world or play Gwent, a card game unique to the world of Witcher.

Video of gameplay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4ony2r0QFs

Lens Analysis

  1. Lens of Elemental Tetrad
    1. Story: Witcher 3 has a compelling main story that is brought across with excellent narrative, making it one of the strongest aspect of the game. The story is complex and non-linear (player’s choices can affect the ending), and has numerous plot twists and unexpected moments. The unconventional story serves as a main drive for the game.
    2. Aesthetics: Witcher 3 at the time of its release, had one of the best graphics for a video game. There is realism in the movement of environment objects (eg. grass), and especially in Geralt’s A special aspect is the subtle changes to the screen hue with respect to the player location, such as a dark and dull hue when in a haunted village, or a highly saturated hue when in the heart of a lively city. These works very well in enhancing the storytelling aspect of the game.
    3. Mechanics: The game does not encourage the “hack-n-slash” playstyle, and often, players are required to use signs, potions and skilful manoeuvres to defeat enemies. This plays well with the overall idea that the world is dangerous and survival does not come easy, and ensure that players do not easily get bored of the combat system.
    4. Technology: The game makes use the keyboard and mouse assets very well, such that even with so many controls for combat (five available signs, two secondary weapons, two swords, dodging, parrying etc) players do not normally have to move their palms to be able to fight comfortably. The game cleverly slows the game time while players access a wheel to change signs so that no extra keys have to be allocated to the all the signs, and players have sufficient time to switch between signs
  2. Lens of Emotion
    1. There are many surprises hidden away in the world. For example, while travelling in the game world, the player may come across mysterious blood stains and monster tracks on the forest side trails. This invokes excitement, fear and curiosity in the player – should the player move on or take a risk and investigate the source? These instances are not explicitly displayed on the map nor in the quest guide, and can only be discovered through exploration, which enhances the excitement and novelty of every encounter.
    2. Witcher has a very strong narrative accompanied by excellent voice-acting that brings out the emotions of and dynamics between the characters very well. In one of the expansion content, Heart of Stone, Geralt takes part in a wedding in the village and the combination of uplifting ambient tunes played by the musicians, gossips from the maidens and funny dialogue exchanges with drunk guests creates a very lively and happy atmosphere, invoking happiness in the player.
  3. Lens of Freedom
    1. Being an open-world game, players are allowed access to almost the entire game world even without following the storyline. Players are not constrained to the storyline quests and are free to roam wherever they want or do whatever they want to at any point of the game.
    2. Apart from just plain exploring, players can find hidden treasures or guarded stashes, clear out (challenging) monster nests and discover other countless places of interests found in the very big game world.
    3. When players get bored of the constant combat and questing, they can play a strategic card game, Gwent, or take part in many mini games such as fist-fighting, horse racing etc.
    4. There are no hard and fast rule on how to ace the game. Players are free to choose their preferred style of combat and then add skill points or buy gears that cater to or enhance that combat style.
  4. Lens of Meaningful Choices
    1. The strongest aspect of Witcher lies in the myriad of choices that the player faces. In many cases, players are faced with a moral dilemma; Should you pardon a bandit (who pleads for your mercy and promises to turn over a new leaf) or kill him in distrust? Do you reprimand your daughter for being brave and risking her life to save others, or encourage her bravery? Would you choose the girl that stuck with you at your lowest, or choose the love of your life? Every choice matters – it changes your reputation and how people treat you, and the more major choices affects the story progression and eventually the ending.
    2. Many a times, there is no right or wrong for any of the choices you make, which makes every decision a lot more interesting (or frustrating).
    3. Apart from moral dilemmas, there are also numerous times where the player’s choices are based on his level of observation and judgement. For example, if a player does not pick out clues from the messages and dialogues carefully, he might get tricked into a decision that might negatively affect him or other characters.
  5. Lens of Essential Experience
    1. The game does a very good job in creating the immersive experience of being in a fantasy-mediaeval world.
    2. First, the level of detail put into the level design of the world is excellent. The buildings, structures and scenery are very relevant and accurate to the representation of the mediaeval era. Cobblestone floor, stone buildings in the richer district and wooden houses in the slumps. Even the interior design of every accessible building is done intricately. When walking through the streets and accidentally bumping into other NPCs, the collision is visible and the NPCs will react to it (such as shouting or scolding). This contributes to a very immersive and lively game atmosphere.
    3. Monsters roam freely in the wilderness, and unexpected encounters with them enhances the fantasy aspect of the Witcher A player can be travelling near a cliff when a wyvern lets out a cry and flies overhead, or be gathering herbs in the woods and suddenly encountering a Leshen, a powerful tree monster.
    4. Lastly, the Witcher world highlights the dynamics and politics between the difference races very well. Throughout the game, players will interact with elves, dwarves, sorceresses and different factions of armies. For instance, there is a sense of distrust between elves and humans due to feuds in the past, and discrimination against dwarves by the humans and thus dwarves are often only found in the slumps of the village. These dynamics creates a fantasy world that has depth and seemingly mirrors the real world, creating an even more immersive experience.

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Papers Please

Papers Please: This game puts the player in the position of an immigration officer of a dystopian country Arstotzka and thus has to decide who to admit or exclude from the country.

Game website: http://papersplea.se/

Elemental Tetrahedral: The game is aesthetically pleasing, despite it not boasting of high quality 3D graphics and just opting for a 2D pixelated interface. Despite this low level of graphics, it manages to create a convincing world and story with the aid of suitable music where I am in the position of a immigration officer of a checkpoint that lets people into the country Arstotzka that is ruled by a corrupt government. The technology here would be any personal computer, since it does not require a high level of graphics. The mechanics are to make decisions about the people that pass through the checkpoint everyday as well as whether to admit some specifically important people to the story despite failing the specified immigration restrictions each day.

papersplease

Figure 1: Checking of documents

The Lens of Problem Solving: I had to decide who to admit or exclude from the country based on a certain set of rules that are declared by the “ministry” of the country every day. There are warnings followed by penalization of money and followed by being fired and thus the game ending in the case of admitting too many illegal immigrants consecutively. Speed plays a factor as well as you are paid depending on the number of people that pass through the checkpoint each day with a given set of hours. One hidden problem would be that the money earned at the end of the day will be spent on food, heat and medicine for the family at the end of the day. I had to decide on certain days to not supply heat for my family due to limited cash which in turn led to them being cold and sick the next day, and thus I had to purchase medicine instead with my meager income.

The Lens of Challenge: The number of rules and restrictions increase day by day and it gets increasingly difficult to check for every single restriction for every person that passes the borders. There is a large variety in the rules and restrictions to pass each immigrant. In the later levels I needed to check not only for validity of the immigrant’s passport, but also whether the conversation between the immigrant and me was in accordance with the reason for entry document from the immigrant. I also needed to check whether the height and weight of the immigrant was valid with the ID ticket and if not, body scan the immigrant for contraband items. This variety kept the challenge of the game fresh and not mundane when all I was really doing was checking papers.

The Lens of Goals: The main short term goal in the game would be to survive the day without getting too many mistakes and thus result in being fired and the game ending. The game consists of twenty different endings which are reached depending on my reaction to certain immigrants and people that pass through the checkpoint. For me I found the long term goal to be able to finish and arrive at all twenty different endings eventually. For example there is a organisation, EZIC, that seeks to overthrow the unjust government in the country and depending on whether I admit the members of the organisation into the country I arrive at a different ending consequently.

paperspleasebranch

Figure 2: Branches for different situations that lead to different endings

The Lens of Meaningful Choice: There are also varying conversations between the immigrants and the officer sometimes that try to “guilt trip” me into choosing to admit the immigrant even though he/she may be violating some rules, for example an immigrant begging or bribing the officer to admit their spouse or themselves. At times I find myself admitting an immigrant because “her son is in the country waiting for her” even though she has an invalid passport, since the only penalisation for me is just a warning slip from the ministry. It also makes me more cautious to not exceed the limited admissions for error since I have already given one “chance” for myself away for a virtual mother to reunite with her virtual son. The game successfully made me believe that I was making a meaningful choice through these interactions.

A friend’s observations:

The Lens of Meaningful Choice: He was not successfully “guilt tripped” into admitting any poor person that could not afford valid passports and just denied them entry without any hesitation. The game had not successfully imposed upon him the guilt of denying a woman from reuniting with her lost son, which indicated a certain level of detachment that he had from the game, and he may not have believed he was making a meaningful choice.

The Lens of Surprise: He was surprised when there was suddenly a terrorist attack on the customs which led to it shutting down for the day and abruptly cutting short his day. There were also some rules that were not explicitly stated that he missed, such as checking whether a person with long hair but had a passport that indicated the person was male needed a body scan before the person could be admitted. He was surprised at the depth of the game’s long list of rules and how it could trip up the player.

The Lens of Curiosity: He found himself being curious about what each ending entailed depending on the different meaningful choices he made such as admitting members of a revolution into the strict and unjust country that gave him such meagre pay from working everyday that could hardly feed his family. He was also curious what would result if he did or did not accept a monetary bribe to admit a particular important person into the country, or to admit someone that the boss had specifically asked him to allow entry. At each ending the game tells you which ending out of the twenty you have arrived at which invokes curiosity about the other respective endings.

The Lens of Story: The symbolic “Glory to Arstotzka” which is said by the officer and every person who has passed through the checkpoint and also at the end of each day somehow stuck with my friend and he himself even said it after one of the endings to the game. The sentence somehow can invoke two different types of feelings, one of which would be the obvious patriotism to the country, and the other being a feeling of being oppressed into saying it every single day as a form of propaganda from the government. This symbolic sentence was key to creating an ambience of being in this world where the country’s government was corrupt and supported the storyline of the officer that actually had the power to admit people that were going to overthrow this exact unjust government.

Comparisons:

I found the difference in emotional investment between my friend and I into the game particularly when he was indifferent to whether or not the people that passed through the checkpoint “needed” to enter the country through the conversations. This indicated that what may resonate with one player may not affect another and it is important to try to create a game that successfully invokes intended feelings into most of their players as much as possible to be impactful. A game like this depends very much on the choices you make and whether or not the player is successfully “guilt tripped” into choosing something would lead to a different ending and therefore these conversations and ambience in the game play very important roles. I myself found the game to be quite successful in doing so despite the not realistic graphics. I realised that my friend had also turned the volume down while playing the game as he preferred to listen to his own music. This might have been a factor towards him being more emotionally detached from the game due to the lack of ambience.

Both of us found the game to be increasingly challenging, and despite a supposedly mundane game (to just check immigration papers) we did not find ourselves being bored even after a long period of time. This may have been due to the variety of papers provided to check for as well as checking the height and weight of the people that passed through. There was also a list of wanted criminals provided that we had to check and detain if they came to the checkpoint. Sometimes we also needed to check for specific names to admit or deny regardless of the validity of their documents. The game also successfully kept us curious at the end of each day about what would happen next, as there is some kind of “event” to take note of each day. For example on one of the days your direct boss, Dimitri, would ask you to admit a specific individual regardless of her papers. I had detained the person and Dimitri fired me and had me arrested. My friend on the other hand had admitted the person and was allowed to continue the game the next day, just getting away with a warning.

glorytoarstotzka

Figure 3: Glory to Arstotzka

The symbolic “Glory to Arstotzka” seems to have stuck with both of us, as discussing the game led to us randomly declaring this phrase during conversations. Even on the NUS Confessions Facebook page there was a post discussing this particular game, and many comments in reply consisted of this sentence as well. It seems the game has successfully created a symbol for this game and through the lens of resonance it is special for people who have played this game.

Ooh Jing

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StarCraft 2

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swart is second installation of the StarCraft 2 trilogy, a military, science-fiction, real-time strategy series. The game is developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. The game has various modes, which can mainly classified into 2 categories: Campaign mode and Ladder mode. I will mainly focus on the 1v1 Ladder mode in this analysis.

1v1 Ladder mode, or Melee mode, is where 2 players can play against each other on the same map. Each player can choose to play one of the three races in the game. Each race has its own strengths and weaknesses, thus required a different playstyle. The player’s goal is to destroy all enemy’s buildings before he does to you. This is considered the most well-known form of StarCraft 2.

Some high level best games in StarCraft 2 can be viewed here:

You can even download and play the game for free here:

http://us.battle.net/en

I have attempted to close read the game using the lenses as described in Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses. Below is the results, listing using the lenses described in the book.

  • Lens of Essential Experience:

StarCraft 2 essential experience are basically the competitive drama, which occurs in many competitive game. Basically, it can be broken down into 3 parts: the tension when enemy’s actions are unknown, the heat when player’s engaging each other, and the satisfaction and self-worthy of the winner as well as disappointment of the loser. Judging from my own experience, as well as observing the crowd’s “excitement level” in most StarCraft 2 tournaments, the game has definitely well-captured the essential experience described above.

  • Lens of Surprise:

Surprises in StarCraft 2 are plenty. It comes under many forms: drop units or slipped clocked units into enemy’s bases; assault, flank, or trap enemy’s armies; etc. It can even be the build you are executing. Rushing for an all-in early attack, hoping to surprise the enemy is a common and basic tactic. Example of this would be a popular “6-pool Zerglings rush” that become a well-known term for even non-StarCraft 2 players. Elegantly, all of these are achievement mainly by using a single RTS-popular mechanics: the infamous Fog of War. Obviously, StarCraft 2 does not lack surprise.

  • Lens of Curiosity:

Information is vital in StarCraft 2, as “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles” (Sun Tsu). Hence, players constantly seek to acquire information on what the enemies are doing. Early scouting with workers, sending suicidal units to peek the enemy army’s composition, gaining map control, etc. are example of information seek done by the players. This is the curiosity of the players, the desired to know more about the opponent’s actions. Sure enough, curiosity always presents in any StarCraft 2 matches.

  • Lens of Problem Solving:

StarCraft 2 is famous for being a fast paced RTS game, hence it requires split-second decision makings and executions. In any moment during the course of the matches, players are constantly asking themselves long term questions about the game plans and tactics and how they need to adjust based on the information gathered, as well as short term decisions such as army’s composition and position, how to gain advantages over the enemy through harassments, engagement, etc. while protect and respond to enemy’s harassments, etc. Problem solving, without doubt, is part of the StarCraft 2’s experience.

  • Lens of Balance:

StarCraft 2 is famous of being well-balanced. In StarCraft, there are always counters to everything. Therefore, there is no dominant unit or strategy in StarCraft. Moreover, the game is not only balanced at the high level pro-gamers, but applicable to any skill levels as well. Therefore, StarCraft 2 is definitely well-balanced.

  • Lens of Simplicity/Complexity:

The StarCraft 2 rule and mechanics are simple, and can be fully taught and explained through the first few levels in Campaign Mode. However, the game dynamics and complexities generated through these mechanics are numerous and deep. Hence, the game is well-designed in a sense that it can keep the game’s simplicity yet able to generate gameplay’s depth.

  • Lens of Competition:

The game itself is very competitive, and is considered one of the leading ESport game in the world, as well as the best game within its own genre. The competition is formed by the nature of the game itself, such as its game play mode, its high requirement of understandings and skills, and its past face in decision makings and executions. Also, the StarCraft 2 Matching system always find the opponent at about the same level with the player, hence ensure the player always feels challenging but not unfair. The Ladder system in the game also encourage players to keep playing and reward players with league promotion. This system working in conjunction with the Matching system also creates pressure and tension for players, especially before the match. This feeling is commonly known under the name “Ladder anxiety”. Moreover, the game itself has a community of programers whose main job is to constantly training and playing StarCraft 2, hunting for tournament’s prize. There are numerous tournaments hosted every year for StarCraft 2 players to test their skills and compete with other players. This is showed that StarCraft 2 is a competitive game at any skill levels.

Dota 2 Analysis

dota image

Short Description

Defence of the Ancient 2, more popularly known as DOTA 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena video game. The core of the game involves two teams of five players, each side fighting to penetrate the stronghold of the opposing team, and to ultimately destroy their ‘Ancient’ building in order to seize victory (hence the title). The individual players each picks and controls a unique ‘Hero’ character and focuses on levelling, earning goal, purchasing items and last not but not least, fighting the opposing team.

Game website: http://www.dota2.com
Game play demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xc9SsckCf_w

Analysis

  1. The Lens of Surprise

DOTA enables players to constantly surprise one another through game mechanics such as fog of war, in which vision of the enemy team is always limited, for example, I would not be able to see an enemy unit if it is on a higher ground or say behind a tree thus allowing players to do things such as sneak up against each other, or even discreetly ‘farm’ for gold then emerging suddenly with crazy items.

  1. The Lens of Fun

To me, DOTA has been one of the most engaging and fun game I’ve ever played. It’s complex game mechanics allow endless possibilities and playing styles, such that every game I play is always at least slightly different the previous ones, involving different players and different situations that arise from decisions of these players. This ever changing and surprising game play never fails to keep me entertained and engaged. Being able to collaborate with people also adds into the fun, especially when we successfully gang upon an enemy hero.

  1. The Lens of Curiosity

While playing DOTA, we are presented with many different scenarios in which we have to constantly question ourselves in order to make what we deemed as the most appropriate decision. Questions like, “am I about to be sneaked upon?”, “is it save to take this route” often run through my head repeatedly. I feel that the game designers had been very successful in forcing us into asking these questions as by experience, failing to so would lead to multiple death of your ‘Hero’ and hence great frustration, also coined as the term ‘feeding’.

  1. The Lens of Endogenous Value

DOTA has a number of things that carry endogenous value, one which has significant endogenous value is gold, which is extremely pivotal in the outcome of the game. How fast you can earn gold determines the speed of you obtaining your necessary items in order to achieve an edge over the opposing players. Another example would be ‘hero’ kill score, while not directly resulting in the winning of the game, since game is not won by kill counts but the destroying of the ‘Ancient’, having a high kill count usually is a very accurate indicator of how well your team is doing, higher kill count also means higher revenue since each ‘hero’ kill earns a bounty. A high kill count also gives a sense of satisfaction and achievement, as mentioned in my above game experience.

  1. Elemental Tetrad
  • Mechanics: I feel that DOTA has great game mechanics that while the main goal of the game is to destroy the opposing team’s ‘Ancient’ building, it still leaves plenty of room for players to explore and try different things.
  • Story: DOTA has a short background story but does not quite matter at all, I doubt many actually knows the story behind the game.
  • Aesthetic: DOTA 2 is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, a great step up from its predecessor DOTA 1. It even has a marketplace where new skins can be found and equipped onto ‘Hero’ characters.
  • Technology: There is nothing special about the technology of DOTA 2, since it is designed to work on even not so high end computers, graphics in DOTA 2 can even be scaled down such that it could run on slower computers.

Royal Revolt 2

Royal Revolt 2 is a 3D strategy MMO game for smartphones, tablets and Windows 8 PCs. It brought a breath of fresh air to the classic tower defence games, where now players can assume the role of both defender and attacker. Besides building up their own kingdom and setting up defences to prevent attacks, players now can also raid other player’s castle by sending in their own troops. All these can be done within a few taps and thus making the game easy to learn and play.

Game website: http://royalrevolt.com/

Gameplay Video:

MY EXPERIENCE

Lens #7: The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad

I felt that the technology and mechanics go very well together. Game is easy to access and it is available on our smartphones. I will also play the game even while travelling due to the easy mechanics of the games. I also enjoyed the aesthetics wise of the game as it was cute and allowed me to enjoy the impressive graphic while playing.

The storyline however felt a bit redundant. If a stronger and/or linear storyline could be used, I believe I will be able to connect to the game even more. What kept me playing is the interesting gameplay and the MMO aspect of the game.

Lens #39: The Lens of Time

The game is designed such that time is needed for building of structures and refilling “food” that is needed for raiding other players. This can be frustrating as I may want to play for a longer period but the game disallow me to.

Hence, I usually play the game only for a few minutes, and only get back when I have free time or nothing to do. Sometimes due to the long waiting, I did ever consider if I should quit.

10 minutes is needed for an upgrade

 

Lens #86: The Lens of Community

The game has a system of rankings, guilds and player raids. This sense of playing with and competing against other real players has somehow increased my competitive spirit, spurring me on to level up and raiding players to increase my ranks or just to get revenge.

However, I felt it still lacks a sense realism of community since the game is not real-time.

Lens #31: The Lens of Challenge

The game system usually paired me up with a stronger player when raiding. It gave me a sense of satisfaction when I am able to beat the stronger players, partly due to my own skills and decisions during gameplay.

However, many times the player will be too strong and I will spend “golds” to be matched with a lower level opponents.

Lens #30: The Lens of Fairness

Royal Revolt 2 is a typical freemium game – a pay-to-win gaming system. It definitely get on my nerves, when players of the same level as me have much better skills and equipment just because they are willing to spend real money on the game.

Luckily there are still players like me who does not spend money, which kept the game partially fair. I also pride myself, if I were to be able to beat those pay-to-win players who are much stronger than me.

Buying Gems with real money

FRIEND’S EXPERIENCE

Lens #7: The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad

My friend found that the technology and mechanics go very well together too. Likewise, at every free time, he will be using his phone to play the game. He even uses his tablet for a bigger and better screen. He sometimes played with the music on, in order to appreciate the game’s aesthetics fully.

As for the storyline, my friend too did not take much notice of it and he will skip all the dialogues of the characters.

Lens #39: The Lens of Time

Almost every free moments he had, he will be checking the game. He would even plan the gameplay to fit into his schedule, to allow the game always be ready for play whenever he is free. This let him not to feel a sense of disruption when the game disallowed to continue playing.

Lens #86: The Lens of Community

He is the leader of his own guild, and with his online friends, they will work and communicate with each other in order to achieve and level up their guild. He actually felt a sense of belonging with the community as they will chat frequently to discuss the game play and strategies.

Lens #31: The Lens of Challenge

He does felt the game is challenging too due to the fact stronger players were always been pair to him during raids. Sometimes he will challenge those stronger players just to test his skill. But similar to me, he will still tend to seek for an easier enemy yet with enough challenge.

Lens #30: The Lens of Fairness

Since my friend spends much more time than me on the game, even if his level may be same as mine, his skills and equipment are much better. This actually kept him near the level of those who pay for the game.

Unlike me, he rarely complains about the fairness of the game. However, sometimes he will still be willingly to spend a bit of money just to keep him on par with the other players and to keep his rankings up.

ANALYSIS

Mobility of device and ease of gameplay

I realized that the most effective way to get a person to be hooked on a game knowingly or unknowingly is the combination of device’s mobility and gameplay’s simple mechanics. A game with an easy gameplay will allow people to play without much thinking or just help them pass time. With the mobility of its gaming device – smartphone, which people carries around most of the time, it further entice the person to play the game almost anywhere and anytime. Just like how my friend and I were, while travelling or waiting for a bus, we will conveniently take out our phone and start playing game. It slowly becomes a habit, for us to play some games on our phone when we are free.

The “waiting” game

Royal Revolt 2 is a game that requires time. I found out that this kind of games tend to led to 3 scenarios.

  1. Some gamers, for example myself, may get frustrated of the waiting. This kind of people may only play the game for a few minute and only get back to the game after a long while. They tend not to check the game often. After a while this may lead to their disinterest and stop playing the game.
  2. Gamers may be hooked by the game and set notification to notify themselves whenever the game is ready. This causes them to spend almost all their free time on the game.
  3. They are the players who hate waiting and are willing to spend. They will spend real money just to decrease the waiting time so they can continue playing as long as they want. This is where the revenue of the game is mainly from.

Through this, we can see that this is one of the way the game is designed to keep the players playing, though it does have its downside to it. However, the popularity of this game showed that the upsides out ruled the downsides.

The (un)importance of storyline

I found that storyline may not be the most important thing in a play-on-the-go game. Many people who play Royal Revolt 2 just want to pass time quickly. Also they may just want to play some game that does not require much thinking. Most of the time they just want to be entertained through fast-paced action gameplay and dynamic graphics. This may be reason why Royal Revolt 2 does not have a complicate story. It only gave the players a simple background story and everything else depends heavily on the main gameplay itself. People who continued playing is not because they are interested in story but because of the well-designed gameplay.

Players prefer games with dynamic graphic

 

Conclusion

Royal Revolt 2 is a good example of a game breaking out of the mainstream gameplay, by injecting a new perspective to the traditional tower defence game. This further proves that storyline may not be the most important aspect but the game design and ideas are the one that kept the players playing.

Binding of Isaac

Binding of Isaac (BOI)

boistart

The Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Swh54ibRSDo&index=1&list=PLA958826F60F5B8B7

The Binding of Isaac is a top-down 2D roguelike in which the player assumes the identity of the protagonist, Isaac, and attempts to escape from his murderous mother by going deeper down each floor of the basement. Progressing further down each floor requires the player to kill all the enemies encountered and defeat the boss guarding the entrance to the next floor. Along the way, power-ups can be obtained to strengthen or weaken Isaac. The game ends when the final boss is killed, prompting the ending scene to start showing. New content is unlocked on completion of certain achievements, with some of the content being new power-ups, new floors or new ending scenes.

 

My Experience

Lens #7: The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad

Mechanics: Enemies and bosses are characteristically different from each other. Power-ups obtained are stackable with each other. Permadeath keeps the game tense and engaging. Floors being randomly procedurally generated makes each playthrough different and gives me a chance to discover interesting and sometimes hilarious interactions between enemies and power-ups.

Story: Controversial story that touches on dark themes, e.g. religion and child abuse. Each ending is ambiguous and open for interpretation. It piques my interest to keep playing to unlock more endings to further understand the story.

Technology: The game is made in Flash, which while is good enough for the scale of this game, introduced slight lags when activity on the screen got too hectic. This caused slight irritation when the lag occurred, but not enough to spoil the experience.

Aesthetics: Cute artwork but disturbing enemy sprites.

boicute

Cute stuff

 

Overall, the aesthetics and story complemented each other well. The cute artwork was deceptively contrary of the dark themes, creating a unique experience. The mechanics kept things fresh for players that want to keep replaying to know more about the story. Its biggest flaw was technology, which the developer agreed and eventually changed in its sequel: Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.

Lens #27: The Lens of Skill

boidodge

Bullet Hell

 

BOI in its essence is a game of skill. Besides testing my reaction speed, it challenges me to make decisions on either rushing each floor or to spend a longer time on each floor farming to possibly become stronger. Each subsequent floor becomes harder, requiring the player to farm floors to become stronger. However, spending a longer time on each floor means possibly taking more damage, making the later game harder.

Lens #20: The Lens of Judgement

The game judges me on whether I have good reflexes and can make smart decisions, and the achievements unlocked and amount of progress made in each playthrough affirms my skill.

Lens #49: The Lens of Visible Progress

boicompare

From this to THIS

 

BOI shows my progress during a playthrough. Power-ups all make visible changes to the character and the projectiles. Each new power-up that is picked up add to the change in aesthetics of the character sprite, showing how powerful the character has become. The game also shows the progress of the player’s career in playing BOI. It shows the tally of total number unlockables and how many are left, even changing the start menu to reflect the progress that I have made in unlocking all content of the game. This appeals to the completionist in me, urging me to keep replaying to unlock everything.

Lens #53: The Lens of Control

The control scheme is simple; WASD for movement and arrow keys to shoot projectiles. Use SHIFT to set a bomb, Q to use an item, and SPACEBAR for the spacebar item. Controls respond fluidly to the command of the player. Enemies are fair in that their own AI and movesets do not change. Whenever I lose in the game, the irritation I feel is always with myself as the outcome is due to my control.

 

My Friend’s Experience

I got a friend who was new to BOI and got him to play a few games for me.

Lens #2: The Lens of Surprise

boiinstruct

That’s all you get

 

At the start of the game, players are simply thrown into the game with four instructions and nothing else. Everything from then on is a surprise for new players. How enemies and bosses move and the effects of power-ups. Nothing is explained at the start and there is enjoyment in exploring new things.

Lens #29: The Lens of Chance

boirng

What RNG can do for you

 

Due the random nature of the game, sometimes the power-ups received are quite underpowered. The friend who played the game felt that the game is too “RNG-reliant”. The power-ups received dictated his progress in the game, and thus became too random.

Lens #69: The Lens of the Weirdest Thing

The setting of the game is weird. Weird monsters appear in the basement and the further down players go, the more detached from reality the game becomes. The ending revealed on completion of the game do not explain anything directly and leaves them puzzled and interested to make sense of the whole story.

Lens #10: The Lens of Resonance

The dark theme and issues dealt with in the game resounds with players. Players can empathise with the main character, and it forces players to think about these controversial issues that are seldom covered. It creates depth for the game and offers additional meaning for players playing it. It creates for a more satisfying playthrough.

 

Analysis

Comparing the two sets of notes, we both agree that BOI is a satisfying game where the good controls and level design provide an interesting and enjoyable experience. The weirdness of the story and dark theme explored gave the game additional value, making the experience of the players more meaningful.

Using the Lens #7: The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad, we can see that of the 4 elements, none is more important than the rest. Developing the game in Flash has resulted in a somewhat subpar game, where if better technology is used, a better experience for users can be achieved.

However, from the two experiences, we see that there is a conflict of Skill versus Chance. I thought the game had more emphasis on skill while my friend thought that the emphasis on chance. This brings about the difficulty of how to balance skill and chance, which corresponds to Lens #34: The Lens of Skill vs. Chance. In my opinion though, while BOI’s element of chance with power-ups does indeed contribute to ease of a playthrough, an immensely skilled player can still complete the game without strong power-ups. The balance of skill and chance in this game is still acceptable.

From all the lenses we have identified and judging the game based on them, I would argue that BOI has a good game design. The game is designed to be hard for starting players, and through the gradual improvement of the player, the game judges them and reaffirms their steady improvement. The element of chance and randomness of the game allows replayability, which helped to maintain the interest in the story.