Review for latest HW

  1. VR Headset Review

As my experience with VR is limited, I have not experience much with the VR headset. Hence, to analyse what would be best for me would be these criteria: affordable, does not cause dizziness, portability, compatibility. The best way for me to see if a headset fits these criteria would be looking at the specifications. As each specification comes with pros and cons, I would judge my “favourite” headset based on whichever specs that best matches my preference. Currently, the 4 most competitive headsets are Oculus Quest, HTC Vive, Valve Index, PlayStation VR.

SpecsOculus QuestHTC ViveValve IndexPlayStation VR
Max Field of View100°110°130°110°
Max Resolution2560 x 14402160×1200 (1080×1200 per eye)2880 x 1600 (1440 x 1600)1920×1080
(960 × 1080 per eye)
Max Refresh Rate72Hz144Hz90Hz90Hz, 120Hz
ConnectionUSB Type-C, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi1x HDMI 1.4+
DisplayPort 1.2+
2x 3.0 (one usable for accessories)
Custom cableHDMI and USB
Cost
US$399 (64 GB)
US$499 (128 GB)
US$399$999 (headset, 2 tracking stations, 2 controllers)
$499 (headset)
US$299 (headset, camera, and a game)[16]
Move controllers sold separately for $99[

Favourite VR Headset: HTC Vive

Image result for HTC Vive people using

Looking from the perspective of a student who is rather new to VR and is looking for a device which is affordable and compatible with Macbook, I would think HTC Vive would be the best option for me. One of the biggest plus point with the HTC Vive would be its native macOS support, both in hardware and software. HTC Vive is also the only headset which requires a Intel core i5 or higher which most Macbook supports.

Furthermore, based on the table above, for its prices, I would think that it contains specifications that are relatively good compared to the rest. With the same price as the Oculus Quest, its Max Field of view is very close to our human field of view of 120 degrees and its refresh rate is double of that of Oculus Quest. Despite the max resolution being slightly lower that Oculus Quest, I think that the other points such as compatibility and other specifications makes up for it. As the refresh rate is high, I can imagine that experiencing VR on the HTC vive would be comfortable.

Another plus point would be that HTC Vive provides a far more game support through the steam than other headset. This is because gaming developers, specifically Steam was willing to support their games on MacOS. HTC Vive was developed to work specifically with SteamVR platforms. So this provides more use for the headset other than just doing a module on the Macbook. I can potentially use it for games and leisure.

I would not choose the Valve Index, mainly because because of the price. Although it provides the best specifications, I would not be willing to invest that amount for a new venture. Also, the Playstation VR’s specifications seem inferior to the rest despite its lower cost. Hence, I honestly think that I would choose either the HTC Vive or Oculus Quest. However, the main reason HTC Vive would be my selection would be because of its compatibility. Nonetheless, Oculus Quest would be a notable mention for my selection. One main plus point for Oculus Quest would be its portability, which can be convenient for me as I would trip over wires or I can move around more freely in the lab.

  1. MR Headset Review

Similar to the VR headset, my experience with MR headset is also limited. Again, I compiled a list of specifications for headsets which are competitive for the market at the moment. Similarly, I’m looking at specifications which best fulfil these criterias: affordability, does not cause dizziness, portability, immersion. I understand that not all criteria can be fulfilled, so I will weigh on the factors which are more important to me and the number of criteria it fulfils.

SpecsMicrosoft HoloLens 2Acer AH101Samsung Odyssey+Asus HC102
Max Field of View52°110º110º96°
Max Resolution2,560 x 1,4401440×14401440×16002880 x 1440 (1440 x 1440 per eye)
Max Refresh Rate120 Hz60Hz90 to 60Hz90Hz
ConnectionBluetooth LE 5.0, 802.11 2×2 WiFi1x USB 3.0
1x HDMI 2.0
1x USB 3.01X HDMI 2.0
Integrated Bluetooth 5.0 radio to communicate with controllers
1x HDMI 2.01x USB 3.0
Cost
$3500 USD, $125 USD per month Enterprise, $99 USD per month Developer
US$399.99 (controllers included)US$500US$399 (controllers included)

Favourite VR Headset: Microsoft HoloLens 2

Image result for Microsoft HoloLens 2 people using

Because I am looking from the perspective of which headset can best be integrated into reality, I’m foregoing the fact that Hololens cost a lot more than the rest. I prioritising factors such as comfort, portability and immersion which I believe Hololens fair way better than the rest.

Hololen is portable unlike the rest because it is a self contained computer. Based on holographic technology, it allows you to engage with digital content and interact with holograms in mixed reality environments. Which allows a complete immersion of mixed reality. Furthermore, its high resolution and refresh rates allows for the best comfort which can minimise dizziness. Although the field of view is rather limited, I think it being integrated into reality makes that forgivable as you do not need a complete field of vision since you are also viewing reality.

Moreover, Hololens’ optical system has advanced sensor for Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) which process a large amount of data at a high rate. The advanced sensors which recognise maps, places, spaces, and things around the user are impressive. This all contributes greatly to the immersion, and I can imagine it being like how it is portrayed in Iron Man.

I have limited information about the rest of the headsets, but based on Youtube video, I do not see people using the other headset for MR. Instead, most use it for VR games. So this give hololens a convincing win, since I have received more information on its ability to immerse users in Mixed Reality.

One thing cool about the Hololens is its ability to flip the glasses. Users can toggle between the MR and reality. Its design is also user friendly as it allows for people with glasses to wear it with comfort. Furthermore, it is light weight at 566g which is arguable light and easy to wear around.

All these feature of hololens makes it very suitable for both commercial and personal use. I believe it can bring value to many industries, especially the medical field as it can save cost on training. It may even help doctors operate better.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a role-playing game where you take control of a party of characters as they interact with the world through tactical combat, dialogue, and the players’ creativity. You build and customize the characters to excel in and out of combat, using a plethora of possible skill combinations. There are many ways to advance through the journey to become divine, each with their own methods and repercussions.

Elemental Tetrad:

Mechanics

Taking inspiration from classic party-based RPGs, Divinity uses a tactical turn-based combat, where characters use their attacks, skills, items and movement to try to reduce the enemies’ health to 0. To maximize party synergy, there are many possible roles a character can take. In Divinity, the player can use a classic party composition or go nuts and play as four fireball-casting wizards. The game rewards the player who takes advantage of the mechanics, while still allowing flexibility for players to play the game however they want.

Outside of combat, the characters can interact with the world through dialogue and moving objects. They can talk their way out of some combat encounters, teleport enemies to a less advantageous position, or sneak past enemies entirely. The exploration and combat takes place in the same world, allowing seamless interactions between the two.

sneaking past enemies as barrels outside of combat


Story

In Divinity Original Sin 2, the player starts as a prisoner who was captured for being ‘Sourcerers’ – individuals with great powers that are highly dangerous and unpredictable. The story follows them through their journey to escape and embark on a path to become divine.

In the beginning of the game, the player can select the background story of their character or define one of their own to make the character truly unique. Each of them will have their own quests and combat scenarios.

Aesthetics

Divinity takes place in Rivellon, a well-established fantastical world of elves, dwarves and lizards. The adjustable top-down isometric view gives enough space to admire the varied environments, from the otherworldly Hall of Echoes to the ruins of the Hollow Marshes. The detailed 3d character models and animations makes everyone unique, complete with full voice acting. In addition, each player character gets a unique instrument that plays in every major occasion in the story. All in all, the game is a very immersive experience, allowing the user to role-play effectively along with the story.

Technology

This game makes use of its own engine, the Divinity Engine 2. It has a lot of similarities to the more modern party-based RPGs, but polished to a very high standard. Big areas are loaded at once, enabling seamless travel to immerse the player with the story and environments. The elements and world objects interact with each other; wood objects burn, oil slows down characters, being in the rain makes electric damage more deadly. All of these can also be utilized by the intelligent AI, making them a worthy challenge to the player’s party.

Lens 8. Problem Solving

For any situation in Divinity, there are different methods to get through them. The most common is to defeat some enemies in combat, and it is definitely the one aspect Divinity has done best. Before any combat even starts, you need to allocate your characters’ attributes like strength, intelligence, constitution, etc. to make sure the character fits a role in the party. Maybe the enemy focuses on fire damage, so you should learn fire resistance skills before the fight.

During combat, you have access to all your skills and items you’ve collected. Having good preparations is important, but the player will need to adapt their strategies on-the-go with the ever-changing battlefield. No fight in this game is trivial (unless you are over-leveled), as each fight brings something unique to adapt your tactics against. The result is a very rewarding experience after every fight.

good positioning is essential to winning fights

Lens 32. Goals

At first, the characters’ goal is to escape their unjust imprisonment. As the game progresses, their goals shift to a much grander scheme that impacts the whole world.

As for the player, their ultimate goal is to advance the story to completion using whatever means possible. The advancement will be guided by the quest system, which records past events so players won’t get lost after forgetting what happened. Alongside the main story are several side-quests, each with their own rewards in the form of items, gold and XP, which enables the characters to do even better in other quests. Many of the quests are interconnected and resolves the same story arc, giving a satisfying conclusion when everything is done.

Lens 54. Accessibility

Unfortunately, the phletra of options in the game makes playing for the first time really intimidating. It was so inaccessible that a tutorial had to be added through an update after the initial release.

Unlike traditional RPGs, the characters aren’t limited to a “class” or “job” system. Instead, the player has to manually choose every progression attributes, skills, and talents, all of which are available from the beginning of the game. Multiply that for up to 4 characters in your party, and figuring out an optimal build is almost impossible without outside resources.

24 out of hundreds learnable skills, each with their unique effects

Lens 85. The Avatar

As a traditional role-playing game, players get to create their own character(s) or pick a preset character with an origin story. Each character also gets “tags”, which determines their background and therefore their dialogue options when facing certain situations. Someone with the ‘scholar’ tag will be able to decipher forgotten languages, while someone with the ‘outlaw’ tag will have certain underground connections with other outlaws.

In addition, many of the dialogue options are chosen by the player, some of which have major implications. This way, the player can project their actions to their character and see the results of their actions.

character creation screen, with customizable appearance and skills


SYNTHETIK: Legion Rising Review

Game Summary

SYNTHETIK: Legion Rising is a rogue-like shooter game where the player controls a droid in a future dominated by robots. Goal is to defeat enemies and obtain upgrades along the way to the final boss and win the battle.

Official Game Site: https://www.synthetikgame.com/

Gameplay in terms of #9 The Lenses of Elemental Tetrad

Aesthetics of the game are based on 2D sprites, with added effects to present a 3D-like appearance. with flashy effects for explosions as well as damage alerts. Screen darkens are you lose shield, and screen turns red if you take a hit to your health pool.

Story is not elaborately introduced in the game itself, but rather depend on the official site and the synopsis on Steam store to set the story for the game.

Technology used in the game did not seem outstanding to me, as 2D sprite rendering has been in use for quite a while.

In contrast, the Mechanics the game presents are quite thrilling with the randomness factor either trivializing encounters the game throw at you for next few levels, or slow the game down to a grind if you are privy to losing your progress. Permanent loss of a character upon death, with very limited resources carried over to the next game adds to the difficulty of the game.

The Lenses

#4 The Lens of Surprise

The game has many areas where randomness can play a major part, from the loot you get from clearing each level, to the boss you encounter at the end of each zone before the final boss. Sometimes the game can offer you a very strong weapon near the start of the game, or force you into a fight with a boss that is much harder for less well-built characters early in the campaign. Both of these add to the element of surprise in the game (or shock sometimes).

#19 The Lens of The Player

On both Steam and the official website, the game is advertised as ‘unforgiving’, as such players who are interested in the game would expect a challenge worthy of such a word being used in the marketing. I personally find the game really tough, and after two days of trying, I have yet to encounter the final boss in the game. It has definitely been a tough nut to crack. In fact, many of the reviews on Steam would agree that the game is definitely deserving of being called an ‘unforgiving’ game, and most would agree that the difficulty fit their expectations and help complete their experience in the game.

#21 The Lens of Flow

The randomness in the game may cause major fluctuations to the difficulty in the game encounter that the player experience. A poor campaign run with little upgrades found can mean either a short and swift defeat or a long and dragged out attrition. Although randomness is meant to add to enhance the surprise experienced by the players when they chance upon fast upgrades early in the game, the opposite can be daunting to newer players and more experienced players alike.

#32 The Lens of Goals

The game features a linear progression where there are a series of levels and boss fights the player has to go through. In each level there is only one entrance and exit, and in all of my playthroughs, the levels do not seem to shuffle around at all. There is a clear goal signaled to the player on each level, either where the exit is after the players comes within a certain distance to it, or the remaining health of the current boss.

Gameplay Demo

Lastly, here is a short demo video of a boss fight. I had only succeeded in beating this boss once and this player has made it seem easier than it actually is.

Guardian of the Gears

Synopsis

Guardian of the Gears is one of the best student games of IGF 2018. It is a 3D puzzle adventure game where you control a cute little clockwork guardian who is on its way to save the world of gears from an evil entity that is destroying it. In the game, you will make your way through the clockwork world and solve puzzles to progress through the game.

Website: http://games.digipen.edu/games/guardian-of-the-gears

Gameplay: https://youtu.be/sJKH57GBZDk

Elemental Tetrad

Mechanics

Gameplay is very simple. Players control the clockwork guardian through the world and solve puzzles to progress through the levels. There are only 3 types of objects that players can interact with, gear, artifact and port. Interacting with these objects will change the map layout and open up new areas so that players can progress to the next level. Players have to figure out how to interact with these objects to uncover their way to the end and defeat the enemy.

In the game, players can die if they fall off the world map or get hit by the enemy’s attack. There are save points along the way to aid the players so that they wont have to restart again from the beginning.

Story

The game is set in a floating clockwork island which has been invaded by a disruptor which is threatening to destroy the world and it is up to the clockwork guardian to stop it.

The story is told using text bubbles which appears along the way as players solve puzzles and clear each level. There are also collectibles along the world that give players more snippets of information about the world.

Aesthetics

The clockwork island is a beautifully crafted open world that triggers players’ adventurer instinct to explore every hook and cranny of the each level map to find hidden mechanics or objects.

Technology

The game is created using unreal engine and is available on PC

Lenses

Lens of problem solving

Being a puzzle game, it makes players think of what moves they should take in order to progress through the map. The puzzles overlap at times too such that an interactable object from a previous level may an essential piece to clearing the puzzle in future ones.

Lens of Curiosity

The game is develop as an open world with beautiful graphics, and there are many pockets of extra areas and spaces littered around. It made me curious and excited to explore around and look around to see if there are any hidden mechanics or collectibles available.

Lens of Secret

The game gave very little information to players at the beginning. The ‘how to play’ section only tell players of the 3 types of interactable objects in the game. Players learn about the ‘wasd’ movement control of the player and jump use ‘space’ when they start the game. The story is also only told in snippets as players slowly clear the puzzles and advance through the levels.

This ‘learn as you progress’ model that the game adopt syncs very well with the game’s open world map as it makes players think that there may more hidden mechanics hiding in some corners of the map and make them interested in exploring around the world.

Lens of Challenge

The puzzle levels in the game is quite balanced as it starts from easy puzzle at the start to get players familiar with the mechanics in the game and slowly progress in difficulty along the way. At the last level when fighting the boss, time challenges are included to give players a bit of challenge. It was quite satisfying to solve those puzzles and complete the game

A great horror game that you cannot play anymore

Devotion is a first-person Taiwanese psychological horror game that draws inspiration from many familiar aspect of the Taiwanese daily life in the 1980s. The theme focuses on traditional Taiwanese practices as well as many folk religions. The game follows the main character in his journey to discover what happened in his home, and the event that leads to the downfall of his family.

Elememental Tetrad:

Aesthetics: The game has succeeded in faithfully recreating an atmosphere that is very familiar to the Taiwanese, while at the same time introduce many of the cultural aspect of Taiwanese culture to the international player base. The many cultural references and folk religions told through the design of the environment and through collectibles helps to further support the experience of the player. It allows the player to be fully immersed in the story that the game is trying to tell

Traditional talismans are seen on the walls

Story: The story is one of the strong aspect of the game. The game tries to tell a familiar story about a family of famous screenwriter, Feng Yu. Throughout the game, the fate of Feng Yu and his family is slowly revealed, and the purposefully vague memos that the player find during the experience further reinforce the message that the game is trying to convey about the occult and religious practices in 1980s Taiwan.

Mechanics: The game is rather simple in term of mechanic. It is mostly a puzzle solver/ walking simulator with jump scares here and there. It serves rather as a platform to allow the player to explore the beautifully designed environment and to immerse themselves in the experience. The only enemy in the game can one-shot the player, but since there is no life total and the checkpoint system available make this rather trivial, but not to its detriment as it highlights the ‘limbo’ aspect of the game, where the main character is doomed to go through the same environment over and over, until he has atoned for his sin.

The main enemy that the player face throughout the game

Technology: The game was not originally made to be a 3D first person exploration, but in order to deliver the vision of the studio director, the team ended up using Unity to create the very pleasing environment that the player can explore.

The lenses:

The lens of Curiosity: The game is purposefully vague at the beginning, dropping the player in an average apartment in Taiwan in the 1980s. The way that the story is told through memos and imaginary sequences with spirits and ghostly figures further pushes the players on to discover the real truth of the main character. The game never really explains what is happening, instead allowing the player to piece together the nuggets of information to form a complete story, which intrigues the player to go through all the horrors at await.

The lens of Atmosphere: Just like every other psychological horror, Devotion tries to create an atmosphere in which the player can emerge themselves. The familiar aesthetic of a typical Taiwanese apartment which serves as the main setting of the game creates an unique atmosphere where the player feels constantly unease. The game takes something that is familiar to the player, and turns it into a place of horror and danger, thus subverting the player’s expectation in order to more effectively deliver the story as the player can relate more with it.

The lens of Inherent Interest: The game boasts a unique aesthetics of Taiwan in the 1980s. This particular part of history is portrayed through the story of the main character, and it touches on the theme of the occult as well as draws inspiration from many elements of the traditional Taiwanese culture. This would create a distinctive environment for players to experience, which is not commonly seen in contemporary horror games currently on the market.

The lens of Secrets: The game is purposefully designed to let the player experience the main character’s descent into ruin, which is told through bits of information made available to the player gradually. By keeping the story vague at first, the player is encouraged to explore and uncover the secret that plaques the apartment that the player find themselves in.

Baba Is You – A Deceptively Simple Puzzler

Game Summary

Baba Is You is a puzzle game where the rules of the puzzle are the puzzle itself. In each level, the rules of the game a present as blocks which you can interact with, and by doing so, you can create new rules and interactions that change how the game works. The objective is thus to find a way to win the level by modifying the rules in a way such that a goal is reachable.

Official Website

https://hempuli.com/baba/

Game Trailer

Baba Is You – Release Date Trailer

Gameplay Video

Gameplay Video by the Twitch Streamer aliensrock

Elemental Tetrad

Mechanics: The controls are straightforward. You only need to use the arrow keys to move the main character “Baba” around.

The level is a Sokoban-styled 2D space, where all items are represented as blocks which you can interact with. The rules of the game are written as short phrases within the level. “BABA IS YOU” is an example of a rule which gives you control over the character Baba. “FLAG IS WIN” is another example, which allows you to win the level only if you touch a flag.

The catch is that the rules themselves are blocks themselves, so you can move the blocks around to create different phrases and change the rules of the game. Your objective is thus to find a way to win the level by modifying the rules in a way such that a goal is reachable.

Aesthetics: 16-bit music, simple childish graphics, simple controls. The game is simplistic and does not feel overwhelming at first glance. This makes it approachable despite its notoriety as a very difficult puzzle game. 

Technology: Multimedia Fusion 2 was used to develop the interface of the game, as that does not require an engine that does heavy lifting like Unreal Engine. A Lua scripting plugin was used instead to power the logic of the many rules in the game.

Story: The lack of story allows the player to focus more on manipulating the rules of the game freely, allowing them to think outside the box by treating each game object as simply an object, rather than stay attached to any one character and constrict players’ decisions.

#54 The Lens of Accessibility

Accessibility is integral to any puzzle game. If no one knows how to play your game, no one is going to understand how to solve your puzzles. Thankfully, accessibility is something that Baba Is You excels in. My father, who has zero gaming experience, managed to have no difficulty mastering the controls and the main mechanics of the game!

Unlike many other games, Baba Is You does little to directly teach players how the game works. Rather, it subtly tells the player what to do through its level design.

Level 0-1 of Baba is You

In conventional games, this level would simply be unsolvable. This is something that the player would realize almost instantly. However, due to the small space provided for the player to move around with respect to the whole level, players know that there is more to it than meets the eye. As the only other thing that within the same walls as Baba is the rule “Wall Is Stop”, it thus serves as a hint that the player can interact with it somehow.

Once the player interacts with the rule by pushing one of the words around, the rule has successfully been broken and the player realizes that it is possible to walk through walls. The player has thus learnt that it is possible to push away a word from a rule in order to disable it.

The goal is obvious, or so it seems. The flag in the middle of the screen attracts players to step on it. However, they then realize that something is wrong. They then realize that “Flag is Win” is scattered around the level, and not together in a phrase. The player then figures out that they must form the phrase “Flag is Win” in order to turn the flag into a “Winnable” object in order to complete the level.

As seen from this example, the way the level is structured creates a problem-solving path that the player is supposed to take, ensuring that the main mechanic of the game is drilled properly. As the mechanic being taught will be used in later levels with increasing difficulty, it is thus important that it was taught properly in the early levels.

#16 The Lens of Risk Mitigation

It would be very frustrating if the player must continuously restart each level and redo a series of steps in order to try out a different strategy upon failing a level. This prevents players from experimenting with new strategies to complete a level as they would rather play it “safe”, and the game designer from creating puzzles that are more reliant on precision or out of the box as they would take too long to figure out.

Especially in later levels, puzzles can seem complex and overwhelming. However, the game overcomes this by allowing the player to process what is going on with every movement they make. The game only updates when the player makes a move, be it moving a character with the arrow keys or pressing the spacebar to “wait”, which allows the game to update. The player is thus allowed to take their time to calculate their next move, or reflect on what happened if something goes wrong.

The player has the choice to restart the level, but they are also able to Undo each move that they make with no limit. In the game, there is no explicit “Fail” state, which means the player is free to experiment around with various strategies by making use of the Undo button.

#81 Lens of Indirect Control

In some level sequences, the game aims to get players to learn a certain mechanic or interaction. However, the game does this without any direct tutorial specifying what the player needs to do. As such, there are many instances where the game must carefully craft its levels in order to guide the player to use the mechanic.

As the game has a vast and powerful rule set, it can be a sandbox with an infinite number of possibilities. However, some possibilities may not be intended by the level designer. There is thus a need to ensure that the game does not allow players to cheese their way through a level. To achieve this, limitations must be put in place within the level itself.

Level Lake-05

As seen in this level, the rule “Wall is Stop” is locked away on the right side of the screen from the player. This means that players will always be unable to cross the wall as Baba or Flag. They have to make use of the currently available rules in order to win the level.

Analysis: Path of Exile

Image result for path of exile gameplay screenshots
Gameplay of Path of Exile

Path of Exile is a top-down 3rd person online Action Role Playing Game with a fantasy setting. Players work solo or in a team and progress through the story, gathering items to make their characters stronger. Similar games include Diablo 3 and Grim Dawn.

Game’s website: https://www.pathofexile.com/

Latest league trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6f5Zbu4hXI4

Playing the game:

Aesthetics and Story:

At the beginning of the game, it had a dark and depressing vibe, with the landscape being cloaked in shadow and dull colours and the NPCs in ragged clothing. The tones of their voices were very expressive and conveyed the despair that they felt. This continued over the course of the game, with the NPCs having their own personalities mixed into their dialogue. The Aesthetic of the environment and its characters matched the events unfolding in the story and kept my attention. This really immersed me in the Story of the game and I made sure to read all the dialogue options of each NPC.

Technology:

Also, at the time of its release, having each area be randomly generated was quite unique for an ARPG of its style, and added to the replayability of the game. With the endgame revolving around entering the same areas often to try to get better items, this made it less stale to re-run these areas.

Mechanics:

One of Path of Exile’s selling points was the customizability it offered. With the massive sprawling passive tree, along with the fact that each class could use any skill, tons of different characters could be made with different builds. For example, a melee Witch, or a spell-casting Duelist (usually a melee-attack based character) could be built and fare pretty well. As a person that enjoys coming up with different builds, this kept me returning to the game and making new characters.

Image result for poe skill tree
Path of Exile’s character passive tree

Also, these passives could heavily change how your character functions, leading to very different playstyles. For example, there is a passive that makes your maximum HP become 1, but in turn provides you with immunity to a certain type of damage. These opened up the possibilities for many different, unique builds that were very enjoyable to create (Lens #22: The Lens of Dynamic State).

All in all, the 4 elements of the elemental tetrad worked together to create a fun and immersive game with lots of replayability (Lens #7: The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad).

One thing I instinctively looked for when I started the game was the amount of currency (such as “gold”) in my inventory. But after checking for it, I realized that Path of Exile did not have a universal currency like most games. Instead, buying and selling things in Path of Exile worked off a barter system. For example, selling a few basic items to the NPC rewarded you with a “Scroll of Wisdom” instead of gold. This was interesting and meant that players decided the value of items. Whichever item was prized by players would automatically be sold for high prices among them. This was a great way of balancing the player economy (Lens #46: The Lens of Economy).

Path of Exile is heavily based around items and worked with a prefix-suffix system where each item could have a number of prefixes and suffixes which gave it attributes. With each attribute having varying chances to spawn on an item, by the laws of probability, the value of an item with many synergistic attributes was very high. This made me feel ecstatic when I found these rare items (Lens #5: The Lens of Endogenous Value).

Item with 1 prefix and 1 suffix
Item with multiple prefixes and suffixes

As I progressed through the game, I learnt about Path of Exile’s crafting system. Path of Exile had a variety of materials which could be used to modify items, each with their own resulting probabilities of obtaining the desired attributes. Learning which material had the highest chance of achieving the desired result was a rewarding mental exercise (Lens #29: The Lens of Chance).

Lastly, as is important in all Player-versus-Environment games, I wanted to feel good destroying my enemies. With the combination of the stunning visual effects and matching sound effects of my character’s skills in Path of Exile, I relished the experience of going through hordes of enemy units and wiping them out. The developers seemed to know this and did not hold back on the number of enemies you had to fight, having multiple mechanics that spawned large numbers of enemies for players to fight and enjoy themselves. For example, “strongboxes” were clickable objects in the environment that spawned many enemies and dropped loot when the enemies were defeated. Not only did this sate the player’s hack-and-slash needs, they gave the player the resources they needed to make their character stronger, which was what all players wanted (Lens #16: The Lens of the Player).

Celeste

Image result for celeste

Celeste is a 2D puzzle platformer where the player controls a girl named Madaline as she ascends a mountain, Mt. Celeste, all while avoiding various deadly traps and obstacles. At its heart, Celeste is a platformer that caters to both the casual players with its rich and engaging storytelling, forgiving controls, and beautiful audiovisuals, whilst also offering platforming veterans some of the most challenging and satisfying platforming experiences of its class.

The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad

Visuals

Celeste makes use of consistent and aesthetically pleasing 2D art that keeps the player engaged through its captivating scenes and visuals. The use of pixel art allowed the game to portray just enough details for the player to recognize elements in the scene, but at the same time leaving much to the player’s own imaginations. The artwork combined with fluid animations, particle systems, and various other visual effects allowed Celeste to keep the player’s attention and interest throughout its levels without ever getting repetitive nor boring.

Narrative & Storytelling

Platformers, especially difficult ones, typically suffer from not being able to generate enough motivation from the player to push through challenging levels. These platformers are often prone to losing the player’s interest as difficulties increases. Celeste was able to keep the player engaged and motivated throughout most of the game by featuring an interesting and unique narrative and storytelling.

Controls & Mechanics

One of the most important aspects of designing a platformer is making the controls feel good. Unresponsive controls, floaty jumps, sloppy physics, and imprecise movements are some of the biggest reasons why certain platformers just aren’t fun to play.

Madeline’s controls are tight, precise, and responsive. It was extremely easy to put her exactly where I wanted with fluidity and accuracy. This allowed some of the toughest challenges in Celeste to feel challenging but not frustrating. Failing a level was almost always due to the approach taken and never the fault of the controls.

The Lens of Skill

Celeste requires little prerequisite platforming skills to be enjoyable. This was accomplished by incrementally teaching the player the movement mechanics that are available to them. Celeste also uses various hidden tricks to assist the player without their knowledge. For example, the game implements a hidden “Coyote Time”, where for a short during after the player has left the ledge of a platform, the jump button would still trigger as if the player was grounded.

When the player is really in need of assistance, Celeste features a difficulty toggle with various gameplay modifications that will make the game more accessible for casual players. This includes the reduction of game speed, extra mid-air jumps, and freezing the game for the player to input a dash direction when executing a dash.

The Lens of Flow

The goal of the game is always made clear to the player at every level. The overarching narrative remains fixed, and getting the player from one area to another is always purposefully driven.

As the player progresses and climbs farther up Mt. Celeste, they also inevitably gain a better feel for the game mechanics by having beaten prior challenges. This allows the level design to become progressively more challenging.

Image result for celeste peak

The Lens of Visible Progress

The levels in Celeste gradually changes as the player progresses. These changes include different visual style of level design, more difficult challenges/puzzles, and even an increase in the intensity of the soundtracks used.

Game rules are sometimes also changed when the player makes it farther up the mountain. For example, towards the submit (and subsequently the end of the game), the gravity is reduced and the player is allowed higher jump distances. This allows for new and different challenges to be added throughout the game.

Game Analysis: Sayonara Wild Hearts

Sayonara Wild Hearts is a single-player rhythm game consisting of 23 levels. Player traverses through a surrealistic passage to complete each level.

Game website: http://simogo.com/work/sayonara-wild-hearts/

Youtube gameplay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irpqa9tKi48

  • The elemental tetrad

Story: The game begins by telling a narrative that the world has been “corrupted”, and the player is chosen to save it. The player is then brought into another universe where he has to defeat all the enemies to complete the game. The enemies are apparently based on Tarot cards.

Aesthetics: As the game takes place in another universe, the player is able to see how bizarre the landscape of each level is. Most of the levels incorporate only a color scheme of black and a few flat colors into their background.

Mechanics: In each level, the player traverses through a surrealistic passage accompanied by an electronic soundtrack. At the same time, the player has to dodge obstacles, collect hearts, and fight enemies. As I play this on iOS, movement is done by sliding on any part of the screen, while fighting enemies would require tapping on any part the screen. Camera movement and perspective is automatically adjusted and the gameplay is rather intuitive.

Technology: The game is available in PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and iOS devices.

I believe that the mechanics is made simple as the game is very fast-paced and there is no time to stop and think. I think the main focus of this game is the experience, hence the aesthetics and nice soundtracks, and the story with imaginary characters complements the fantasy that it creates.

  • The lens of challenge

Some of the levels are pretty challenging as the player has to multitask: dodge obstacles, collect hearts, and fight enemies. Nonetheless, if the player dies (for example hit by enemies’ projectile or fall off a ledge), the player is brought to the position where he was at a few seconds ago. Hence, the player does not have to repeat the whole level to get to where he previously died. I think this is a good decision as I don’t think players would want to keep repeating a level especially when the game is not that easy to play. Reaching the end of a level, the player should feel triumphant (and probably relieved) for completing a challenging level.

In my opinion, the most interesting level is called “Parallel Universes”, where the enemies are a pair of twins who create two alternate universes. The player sits through a passage which alternate from a passage from one dimension to another and these passages have obstacles at different positions. This essentially creates a challenge for the player to predict when which universe’s passage would come so as to avoid the obstacles on time. (link for this level: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fBEZ733SAo)

  • The lens of pleasure

The game went on full screen with no additional UI elements (besides the score) to create an immersive experience for the player. Its fast pace allows the player to feel excited. The player can derive pleasure just by sitting in motion through an universe filled with imaginary objects and characters, while enjoying the beats of the music playing in sync with the game.

In most of the levels, the camera adjusts itself to bring the player smoothly to a clip where the enemies take some actions (e.g. taunt, prepare for a fight, transform into other creatures). Thus, player can take a break from the intense focus on his positioning and enjoy the animation for a while.

Each level has different passage with different soundtrack to allow the player to enjoy the pleasure of new experience.

  • The lens of modes

In some levels, the player automatically switches from riding on a ground to running on a tunnel or gliding through the air. This kind of novelty brings in a new experience for the player so the user would not feel bored with just one mode.

Game mode: sailing a boat

I think some modes are rather slow which I did not thoroughly enjoy, such as dodging projectiles in a 2D world.

  • The lens of curiosity

Personally, I felt very compelled to get on to the next level after completing a level as each level is different in many aspects. The music is different at every level. The modes is also varying throughout the whole game and I was curious to find out what other modes they have to offer. In addition, each level is part of the story and at the end of a level, player would unlock a new level and new enemies are introduced, which made me curious to find out what the enemies are capable of.

“Little death”, one of the enemies

Analysis through Lenses – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a 2018 crossover fighting game where players combat with their unique skills to smash their opponents off the stage. The game offers both multiplayer and single player mode, but I will be focusing more on the (main) multiplayer mode. This game can be played both by chaotically pressing all the buttons, or with a careful and precise combination of skills. It caters to all age groups.

Lenses

The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad:

  • Mechanics: The goal of the game is to smash off your opponent as many times as possible, by using skills and powers of the character you chose. Each character has a unique set of skills which caters to different players’ playing styles.
  • Story: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate offers a new single player adventure mode called World of Light, where all characters except for Kirby die after being attacked by a series of Master Hands. Although the story is not as intense as other story-driven games, it’s still a fun adventure mode which serves to explain how the spirits of Spirits Mode (which is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s newest feature) came to be.
  • Aesthetics: Visually, the game is very vibrant and “cartoony”.
  • Technology: Information is not readily available but Nintendo has used primarily assembly, C, and C++ in coding their games. The game is played on Nintendo Switch.

The Lens of Surprise:

Throughout the gameplay, there will be random power ups which players can compete to get. This spices up the game as there may be an unexpected turn of events due to the random power ups.

The Lens of Pleasure:

It is very satisfying to see your combination set of skills work and throw off the opponent off the stage, and players get a sense of constant excitement to see what events will happen next and how they should react as they anticipate for their opponents’ attacks.

The Lens of Action:

The game encourages a lot of combination of skills as a strategy, and the freedom and flexibility of choosing a set of skills (by choosing characters) which suits different players.

The Lens of Goals:

The goal is to win the game, by being the player who fell of the stage the least, and kick the most enemies off the stage.

The Lens of Fairness:

Each player is given the same set of characters to choose from, starts at the same time, given the same restrictions and instructions, such that each player has roughly the same chance to win the game.

The Lens of Skill vs Chance:

Although skills can be very useful in the game to get the proper strategy to win, there is still a fair bit of randomness which gives chance to players who do not possess equal skills. The constant random pressing of all buttons can also sometimes randomly lead to the ultimate move to kick off the opponents.