Deus Ex

The cover art of the game Deus Ex

Introduction

The original Deus Ex released in the year 2000 surprised the first-person shooter world by combining complex role-playing elements with the smooth combat afforded by Unreal Engine at the time. It, along with the Elder Scrolls series went on to define the role-playing first person genre and destroyed the notion that fantasy or science fiction games had to be straight or “on rails” like many games at the time. The game went on to spawn multiple sequels which were mostly successful.

Gameplay – The player engages some enemy soldiers. Note the UI elements. The element in the upper left represents player health, which compartmentalizes damage done the body, At the bottom is the quick inventory and ammo counter. On the right are various augmentations(skills) that can be activated.

Analysis of Game Elements Through Lenses

Story

Deus Ex is set in a dystopian future where science has allowed humans to modify physical aspects of themselves – through augmentations. The story follows JC Denton who is a member of an international peacekeeping force called UNATCO who is tasked to neutralise terrorists that are attempting to steal medicine meant to treat an ongoing plague that has infected thousands.

However, things are not as they seem. Throughout the story, the player can uncover the dark sinister truth not only behind the plague but also about who really controls the world. The story is easy to follow with the game’s AI characters ready to fill the player in on more details should they choose to ask the appropriate questions and an information vault mechanic that keeps track of various story elements the player has discovered. This is combined with the intricate, branching, emotion rich drama sequences filled with betrayal, deceit but also catharsis, camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment after completing each plot thread and seeing them coalesce into the games different endings. I’d say this fills the Lens of Expected Value and Meaningful Choice.

The setting, characters and conflict are completely believable elements to exist in the conflict of their time with most story threads leading to resolutions that satisfy the player.

Aesthethics

Deus Ex was visually unappealing for the time. The Elder Scrolls series among other games had better graphics, however the game made up for the lack in fidelity with other aspects.

Firstly, the environments were true to life and realistic. The game takes the player on an international trip with locations such as the poor districts of New York, the ostentatious streets of Hong Kong, the lavish estates of Paris. Each environment is huge for the time and no space is wasted. Each corner may have a different kind of secret or story bead to follow. A dark alley might reveal a vendor, fun challenge or lead to a sewer laboratory where a clandestine government agency is experimenting on homeless people for nefarious purposes. Lens 2: Surprise and Lens 4: Curiosity can be said to be satisfied here.

Secondly, the audio. All the dialog sequences in the game are voiced well and audio cues such as footsteps, gun sounds, doors opening etc, were the best at the time. Being a role-playing game this element is critical to develop the mood and emotions that a player might feel to the environment or develop a connection to the game’s many characters.

Thirdly, the UI. The UI might feel cluttered and janky today with it being fixed in resolution (thus the higher the res you run your game on the smaller it becomes) but for the time it felt appropriate that a super-augmented police agent would have a UI that presents everything at his disposal in little boxes at the edge of his screen. Perhaps it was the influence of science fiction of the time such as Robocop.

Lastly, the mechanics. The game allowed a player to progress in different ways not just in the story but in combat sequences as well. Different skills and augmentations allowed players to approach conflict and resolve them in unique ways, whether it be a stealthy takedown or avoidance of enemies, guns-blazing invincible super soldier-like romping, remote hacking of computer systems and robots that do your job for you or dialog. Yes, dialog is THE most important mechanic of this game. Often conflict can be resolved or made significantly easier if you walk around and talk. That bum on the street may just know of a secret passage into that heavily guarded enemy hideout…(Lens 6: Problem Solving)

Combined, these basic elements lend to a very engrossing and replayable game, with each playthrough teaching players new areas or tricks they may have missed out if they played differently. The only part of the tetrad missing is technology. It can be argued that the decision to base the game on Unreal was a good decision as it has been ported to almost any device that can run the Unreal engine such as consoles and mobile phones.

I hope other appreciate this game as I did back in my childhood.

 

MONSTER HUNTER WORLD

Monster Hunter World(MHW) is an action adventure game published by CAPCOM.  As the latest installment in the “monster hunter” series, it provides players with fantastic video graphics and smooth operation.  Player takes the role of a hunter and is tasked to defeat various kinds of powerful monsters with fourteen kinds of weapons.  Player is able to hunt either alone or in a team containing up to 4 players.

screenshot:

Link:http://www.monsterhunterworld.com/

Mechanics

The game includes over 5 maps with totally different styles.  Different monsters with various habits live in these areas.

Players are allowed to move in all directions in the environment.  Players are able to create their own characters customizing the exterior and voice.  There are fourteen kinds of weapons each of which has over fifteen development branches with multiple depths.  Players can use various skills according to the weapons they choose.  They should use these skills to cast damage on monsters and evade attack at the same time.  Based on the scale of the group(1-4people), the monster has corresponding HP to balance the difficulty.

Story

Since a long time ago, an event called Elder Crossing have confused people.  Five fleets have been sent out to explore and find why Elder Dragons migrate to the new continent.  The player takes the role of a senior hunter tasked to provide support to the exploration of the new continent.  In the new world, the player will fight to safeguard the outpost and keep the balance of ecosystems.

MHW is a brand-new trial of CAPCOM which brings energy to the prestigious series.  The story takes place in a new continent making it separate from previous plots.  The independence enables the author to add various contents to the story including cooperation with other games.  However, story itself is linear and is only a little part of the game.  It works like a guidance on the operation and ecosystems.

Aesthetics

The exquisite creatures and clothing hint that the game has a strong Japanese style.  Excellent work of voice actors and records producers greatly adds to the immersion and realism of the game.  All the elements in the environment are carefully designed.  Creatures all have vivid animation and their unique habits.  Weapons are finely curved that each of them is a work of art.  Latest graphic technology enables the game to realize designers’ work as much as possible, making it really shocked to play with.

Technology

To create vivid monsters, human actors were asked to act out some of the various monster actions. Then the company used motion capture to develop monster animation.

The game is published on all platforms(PC, PS4, XBOX).  With the help of newly-developed MT Framework engine, it provides a minimum of thirty frames per second which guarantees basic experience of all players.  For hard-core players, additional options are provided to bring them ultra graphic experience.

Lens 5 Fun

Players have access to different weapons freely and are able to co-ordinate their own equipment.  The learning process of a new weapon is a great fun.  Attempts to defeat powerful monsters with different weapons and suits in different ways are even more joyful.  The game just encourages you to find your own way of hunting.

Though there are many kinds of monsters, it is still far from enough.  The action modes of monsters are limited.  Skilled players are so familiar with them that they will soon feel bored.

Lens 34 Skill

For the fact that it is an ARPG game, it allows players to freely use all kinds of skills.  This kind of freedom allows players to explore their own ways of hunting but also makes it challenging to master a particular kind of weapon.  When a player is quite familiar with one weapon, he will soon find necessity of mastering usage of multiple weapons because it is easier to defeat some monsters using particular weapon.  Some skilled players pursue a quick-as-possible mission completion.  This kind of race against time requires incredibly high proficiency which can only be got from lots of practice.

Lens 44 Cooperation

Due to the time limit and death limit, players need to cooperate with each other to defeat the monsters.  The weapon a player chooses partly decides the role of him in a team.  All the players have to take advantages of their weapons including making great damage, healing others and pinning down the monsters.  It also calls for team work when it comes to items usage and environmental traps.

The inner social system is so weak that it is even impossible to reach a particular player.  The poor chatting system makes it hard for players to communicate with each other and leads to high mission failure rate.

Lens 84 The world

Everyone is eager to exploring in a fantastic dream world.  MHW provides a fanciful world with various dreamful living things to players.  Players are able to explore the world freely in all the three directions.  The world is carefully built and rich in details.  By now, the world contains over five areas with totally different styles and ecosystems.(There will be more areas in the future.)  Players can interactive with animals and encounters interesting random events across the world.

 

Dark Souls 3

Description

It is hard to describe the feelings for playing Dark Souls 3. On the one hand, Dark Souls 3 is famous for its high difficulty so it is quite normal for a player to fail before the same enemy for tens of times. The aesthetic design and the music sound both try to create a suppressed atmosphere. On the other hand, a player can get great satisfaction by defeating dangerous enemys, or revealing the story of this world.

Dark Souls 3 is an ARPG (Action Role Playing Game), and it is the final part of the Trilogy of Souls. The story happened in a fictional universe being broken. The players act as an normal one in this end of the world situation, and the player’s move will lead the world to abyss … or another endless cycle. When talking about Dark Souls 3, the high and unchangeable difficulty is always the center topic. In this game, players have to use sword or magic to fight against malicious dangerous enemies, and a simple mistake will lead the character in the game to death. It is also for its great difficulty, a new term “Souls-like-games” is created to describe such hard-core games.

In this passage, we will discuss Dark Souls 3 in the following 5 lens, which helps Dark Souls 3 to take a stand in the world’s game history. The following points is listed with importance sequence(from high to low), yet in this passage, we will discuss this 5 points in a logical sequence:
* The lens of Needs
* The lens of Obstacle
* The lens of Story Machine
* The lens of Elemental Tetrad
* The lens of Competition vs Cooperation

Lens #7 The lens of Elemental Tetrad

Let us start from the Elemental Tetard so we can get a close view of this game. The story background of this game is set to be the end of a world. The world is at the edge of broken: deadly disease spreads among people, undeads walking on the street, and the one who was supposed to protect this world refused to fulfill his duty. In this story, the protagonist was a “unkindled ash”, which means he (or she) will not die, nor really alive: a curse just like Deadpool. The protagonist, once dead meaninglessly, was recalled from death to put the world back to the right path. The way to rescue the world is to take back the powerful “Cinders” by force, to fuel the source of this world: the Initial Fire, yet the “Cinders” are much more powerful then a “Unkindled Ash”.

The aesthetic design of the game try to bring a “ending world” to the players. The visual effects of this game can be described as “magnificent”: the valley under snow and aurora, Gothic high wall and castle, and the ashy church “Firelink Shrine”. The Gothic buildings in this world is suppressing and the sound effect is also sorrowful. Together, the surroundings in this game provides a experience of dark, loneness, fear and despair.

The player has full control of where to go or what to do. You can explore the world as you want: if you can survive from the monsters and the countless traps. You can fight with a melee weapon, or use magic to clear your way. The battle system is mainly based on the usage of shield and dodge, just like fights in middle age. You can go through the journey of taking back the “Cinders” and linking the “Fire”, but NPCs have little lines and there is no mission log or mission guide. The story of the world is hide behind these several lines and the information from the objects you collected from the world, and you have to dig into these clues to complete the puzzle of the story.

The technology this game uses is not advanced. From Software uses YEBIS2 engine to improve the expressive force, yet compared with other RPGs in 2016, the picture of this game can only reach the level of “barely scraped through the line”.

To sum up, this game is not advanced in technology, but by combing the aesthetic design and the “minimum guide principle”, this game successfully created an atmosphere of depression.

 Lens #73 The lens of Story Machine

The very beginning of an RPG is its story. Different form main stream RPGs, there is little background stories provided and no mission guide at all. The story of Dark Souls 3 is hidden under the NPCs’ lines, the description of objects, and the landscape of this falling world. A player must pay attention to all information he can get from the game so that he can figure out what had happened and what is going on in this world. Dark Souls 3 does not give players full freedom to write their own story, although there are different results in different missions and there are 4 different endings. Instead, what Dark Souls provides is the freedom to dig out and interpret this story. From the fragments of information, players can try to interpret the story in their own ways. “There are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes.”, you can still see discussions about the story of Dark Souls 3 in many forums and be astonished by the way how others think of this story. In short, intentionally hiding information and the massive using of metaphors make player not only the audience, but also the re-creators of this story.

 

# Lens #74 The lens of Obstacle

As said above, Dark Souls is famous for its high difficulty. Dangerous enemies and traps are designed out of malice. At any corner there could be an undead holding weapon waiting for reckless players. What looks like a treasure box is in fact a treasure box mob. Besides, there is no difficulty tune in this game, no matter you are new to act-games or you are experienced, Dark Souls provide you with the same malice.

 

*Pic: Refund trigger: Gundyr. Many players was defeated by Gundyr, the first boss in this game tens of times, and then apply for refunding via STEAM.*

However, players can overcome this by accumulating their experience. From dying and dying again players can get to know the action method of the enemy, or get to know where could be traps. The level of a character does not mean everything, what really matters is the skill and experience of the player. For instance, top players can defeat all the bosses with the initial character in 2 hours. For players who struck at certain place for a long time, sometimes there are cheat ways to do it, such as terrain kill.

# Lens #45 The lens of Competition vs Cooperation

Dark Souls leaves the choice “competition or cooperation” to players. Players can get help from “Warrior of Sunlight” when they are fighting with enemies, or get invaded by other players. The game provides many different roles, and a player can switch to other roles easily. Roles include helping others against mobs, invade other’s world for reward, helping others to defend invasion, automatically call for help when being invaded. Players then choose their roles based on their play styles, (and also the reward they want).
Another special system is the “mark” system. Any player can leave a mark on the map. The contents of these marks could be information about a hidden path, or warnings such like “enemy behind the door”, or simple words like “Long may the sunshine”. Players can get rewarded if their mark is prised by other players, but they can also set up fake marks to lead other players to traps: it all depends on players.

# Lens #22 The lens of Needs; Conclusion

The last but the most important, and that is why Dark Souls can take a stand in game history, is that Dar Souls 3 fulfills one’s need of self-actualization.

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is the highest level of one’s need. When a player managed to overcome a boss by failing and practicing once and once again, he will feel that he succeed in self-overcoming and releasing his potentials, which is a critical part in self-actualization.

When it come to an end of this passage, I would like to end the essay by the answer by Rian Zakaron under the Quora question: “Why is Dark Souls 3 so satisfying?”
  • You are an undead/unkindled, a being that is usually regarded as worthless and weak.
  •  No one you meet ever seems to have faith in you, and you die, over and over again. You continue to lose all of your souls, all the while you try to grasp onto the last bit of humanity in you that remains.
  • You cannot truly die, and when that last bit of hope escapes you, you will turn into a hollow; a mindless and aggressive creature that is doomed to walk the earth for all eternity.
  • Yet somehow… You persist.
  • Weak as you are, the curse made you unable to truly die, and your persistence made you the most fearsome foe in existence.
  • This is why Dark Souls is so satisfying.

This is what Dark Souls made of: suffering, satisfying, and finally self-actualizationing.

Copyright (c) 2019 Wang Huaqiang

 

Pro Evolution Soccer 2013

Introduction

Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 is an association football video game, developed by Konami and published on April 18, 2012. The players are encouraged to take control of one soccer team or player to win a tournament or a single match, of which the opponents could be either an AI or another human player. Different soccer tactics and skills can be applied and they will perform differently on different players. According to public game reviews, this version is widely recognized as “one of the most classic versions” in the “Pro Evolution Soccer” series. Click here to view the trailer of this game.

 

Lens #7 Element tetrad

Aesthetics

During game period, the game scene resembles an actual football court with different views including wide view, live TV view, and player-focus view, etc. There will also be playback for goals, shots on goals and fouls right after they happen on court. In addition, other administrative scenes including players booked and substitutions made will also cause the game to pause and playback just like live TV. After the game, players’ off-court life would also be shown including their life in trainings, their communications with coach and managers etc.

 Story

After a busy and fruitful trade window, the season of 2013/2014 kicks start with passionate players and teams. Some of them try to defend their glory they gain from previous seasons, some of them who did not perform well in the past finally got their chance to prove themselves again. There are several mode, including friendly, starting a career as a manager or a player, or playing a specific tournament.

 

Mechanics

Most soccer tactics and skills are made available in this version. For attacking options, you can control your player to do short pass, long pass, straight ball, volley, different types of fake actions. On the contrary, for defending options, you can switch player to control(only when you are controlling an entire team) and conduct following, tackling, clearing, goalkeeper out, etc.

Besides these skills inside the game, you can set the mode of playing as a team before a match and you can adjust the plans according to different game scenarios.

 

Technology

The majority of PES 2013 is developed in C++ and 4A engine, it also allows different players to connect to each other in PC, Playstation, Xbox, etc.

 

 

Lens #32 Meaningful choices

In order to provide a suitable difficulty and create an entertaining experience for the user, this game provide plenty of pre-game setup, which is intuitive and concise. Firstly, you can easily set different difficulty level to get a satisfying experience. Secondly, all teams are up to your choice in matches and you can change transfer players from clubs and national teams in order to form the “dream team” of your own. You can even create new players who simulate yourself as well. Moreover, there are a large number of setup to be used in pre-game configuration, you can change your formation, put more people to defend the opponent’s key players, etc. To sum up, this is a game that provide you with sufficient but not redundant choices.

 

Lens #1 Essential experience

Enthusiastic football fans can find this game really attractive and even addictive, because it covers more or less everything that can be seen in soccer world. When we are playing this game, it feels like that we are really one player or manager that is handling businesses carefully in the soccer world and fighting hard on the pitch. In the real world, the team you like might be currently suffering from defeats, but you can always pick up your pride because you are literally the god of this soccer world.

 

Lens #6 Problem Solving

One of the most attractive features of this soccer game is that the computer will start to adjust your style of playing during a tournament or a career. Therefore, it is impossible for you to stick to one strategy and win all matches because the computer will gradually adapt to your style of playing, therefore you need to solve the problem of creating new strategies to beat the opponent AI player. Moreover, when you are conceded with goals, the players are simulated to be more “nervous” and therefore influence their style and skills of playing. In other words, it makes it harder to score goals when you are 0-1 down than you are still 0-0. These designs provide quite deep level of simulation of real soccer match, and requires the players to think in different situations.

 

 

 

Jurassic World Evolution

 

Jurassic World Evolution:

The game’s primary objective is to build a 5-star park with dinosaur attractions. The park planning is all around the dinosaurs, from fossil excavation to park amenities placement.

Link to official website: https://www.jurassicworldevolution.com/en-GB#masthead

Gameplay video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxKxX0NN7is

[Random comment: The name of the game doesn’t really capture its essence. When I see the word ‘evolution’, I think of ‘Evolve’, a PvP survival game.]

Analysis by lenses:

#1 Emotion:

With a setting that has a close resemblance to the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies, this game is really meant for Jurassic Park fans.

The player builds the park on the same islands in the movie, with the same attractions, dinosaurs and more. Famous characters come together to tell a story as you progress in the game. If there’s any detail which the player missed in the movies, they are likely able to find it here.

They even turned the games’ weakness into their strength: long loading times. Instead of keeping the players waiting, they sometimes flash quotes from the movies, which jogs the players’ memory of the movie and helps to keep them emotionally engaged while waiting.

 

#2 Essential Experience

Although the game’s objective is to build a five star park, but actually to get your visitors to really like your dinosaurs. On one hand, out of the 2 components of park rating, dinosaur rating is usually the limiting factor as it starts off really low. On the other hand, good facility rating is easy to achieve, as long as the amenities around your dinosaur enclosures have variety and are well-planned.

Other than just focussing on park building, the game actually forces the players to go into many details, such as the various stages of acquiring the dinosaurs. You have to unlock dig sites, excavate fossils, extract dinosaur DNA, research genes, modify your dinosaur genome, and finally incubate it before a 5 star dinosaur is actually released. Any dinosaur that stops short of any of these stages will give subpar ratings.

#4 Surprise

Now that the player finally gets down into the business of building their park, something ‘interesting’ happens.

With Dr Ian Malcolm narrating the base story of the game, you can be certain that there will be ‘chaos’ in the game. The game teaches the player how to get a park up and running, but does not warn them about the things that can ‘go wrong’.

Most of these events are familiar if they have watched the movies: Tyrannosaurus fence break, tornadoes, sickness, even sabotage (to as early as the first movie’s Dennis Nedry), and they can all happen when the player is not paying attention.

#7 Endogenous Value

Success means many different things to different players. Beneath the ultimate goal of building a 5-star park, there are many different statistics that can measure success, such as dinosaur variety, highest combat victories on dinosaur, guest count, profit. The list is quite long.

The player also builds the park for different contexts. At the start of the game, Dr Ian Malcolm issued the players with the challenge of the ‘5 deaths’, which refers to the 5 islands which the player is tasked to build the parks on. There is also a speedrun mode available for players up to the challenge.

 

#9 Elemental Tetrad

The game boasts of rich graphics, complete with music and ambient sounds depending on what is happening and what you are doing.

Behind your park lies the backstory of Jurassic Park, Hammond’s dreams and aspirations. Characters directly interact with your park through missions.

The player only has to focus on building the park and rating, visitors and profit will automatically follow. The game takes care of the movements and behavioural patterns of each visitor that enters the park and evaluates their spending and satisfaction scores into rating and profits.

Dr Ian Malcolm likes to talk about balance and chaos, and our game has 3 active agents that demands your attention. Storms and tornadoes come and go.

Of course, these require a rather powerful machine.

The Sims 4

The SIMS 4

Lens of the Elemental Tetrad

Story

There is no story to this game. In the original Sims game, it was the objective of the main character to move out of your mom’s house, find a job, and get married. However as the Sims became more advanced, the story part is omitted. Although some can say that this is a drawback, I think of it as leaving it to the user to create their own story through the characters

Mechanics

There are a lot of complex mechanics at work in the Sims. The primary one is to take care of a Sim (or multiple Sims) by making sure they eat, use the bathroom, sleep, destress, and in general keep their mood up. How you do this, like most of the game, is entirely up to you. There are a lot of mechanics at work in The Sims, but the main one is taking care of your Sim’s basic needs

Aesthetic

The aesthetic of the Sims is very lighthearted and while there are some aspects of the look that are stylized, The Sims is very physically based. The colors, lighting, and body shape of the Sims are based on real humans, and the same can be said for the environment.

Technology

The greatest technological feat of the Sims is the pure scope of the game. There is complex artificial intelligence at work as well as vast decision-making trees that help the achieve the feel of a true sandbox game. Rarely are there times where the user says “I can’t do that” due to the game not allowing it.

Characters

In my opinion, the strongest part of the Sims is the customization of characters. Users are allowed to create their own character, with little to no restraints. However, the fascinating thing about this practice is that the average player will create themselves first. Or rather, create their own “avatar”, an idealized version of themselves. Through this, players humanize their characters and are able to emphasize with them. Instead of saying “This character is staying up too late” a player will say “It’s 1am! Why am I still awake?”. I find this interesting, because the player truly feels as if they’re in the environment.

Additionally, the player is able to give their characters certain traits, goals, aspirations, and favorite things. These are all so trivial and non-essential to the main gameplay, but a player will fill out everything according to what they like, if only for the sake of their character being a little more excited than usual when eating pancakes.

There’s not necessarily strange parts of the game, nor are there major flaws. Most bugs in the game have to do with the AI element. For example, a character might express that they’re unable to move forward because there’s a plate on the floor in the way. Or a character will stay the night at your place, but only because you’ve blocked the main exit

On that note, there’s a stranger and slightly sadistic side to Sims where players want to see just how far they can push the story. For example, what happens if you put a kid in a pool with no ladder out? Or can you kill your rich neighbor, swoon his wife, and inherit all of the family property? Although in most cases people will treat the Sims as real life, they will sometimes treat it as a sandbox where there are no consequences but your own satisfaction. So while you may never lock an annoying coworker in a room with no doors in real life, you might do that in the Sims just to “see what happens”.

Lens of Freedom

What makes the Sims unique from any other game is the amount of freedom to be as microscopic or macroscopic as you want to. There’s an extensive and very detailed architectural simulator that will let you create any extravagant type of house you want. However, you can also buy a pre-made house in order spend more time focusing on your Sim’s career as an astronaut.

The true beauty of the Sims lies in its freedom. The player can create their own narratives based on what will make them happy. For some, it’s creating a giant family with numerous generations, watching each Sim grow and live and die. For others it’s a quest to master guitar while balancing their career as a chef, or making friends with as many Sims as possible. I believe that you can tell a lot about a person based on how they place the Sims, since what they choose to focus on is a reflection of what they deem most important. The developers of The Sims do their best to try and reduce the number of constraints that are on the player. Like in real life, the only things that would stand in the player’s way is their basic human needs. They can’t become a major league athlete if they don’t get adequate amounts of food and sleep, and they can’t pull multiple all nighters if their stress levels are too high. However, these constraints help to humanize the Sims, rather than frustrate the player.

Overwatch

Description

Overwatch is an online multiplayer first person shooter where players work together to fight for team-based objectives.

Lens of Elemental Tetrad:

Aesthetic
:

Overwatch has a very standard 3D cartoony art style that has been tried and tested before. However, what gives the game so much “flavour” is the attention to detail to authenticity of each character and map.

Overwatch has a wide cast of heroes of different ethnicity.  The voice actors were chosen carefully and usually also base on ethnicity to depict the character as accurately as possible. In fact some voice lines are spoken in the native language of the character.

The Maps in the game are located in different parts of the world. Their design, both in music and architecture, has influences from the country they are representing.

Image result for ilios and greece

The map Ilios

Image result for greece

Greece

The attention to detail adds to the overall immersion of the game.

Story:

The story is rather simple: Overwatch was an international task force to combat hostile omnics during the “Omnic Crisis” and restore order. However after some internal conflict and several allegations of wrong doings has led to its disbandment.

Years after its abolishment, former members of Overwatch decide to reform the organisation in light of a possible second “Omnic Crisis”.

While it is hard to add any sort of story element to Overwatch’s game play I believe that Blizzard has done a good job in portraying the backstory through their additional content.

Blizzard has a long tradition of creating cinematic experiences and the backstory of different heroes are described in a series of animated shorts. They shed light on their past experiences and relationships with other characters. The storytelling in these shorts is so impactful and makes you truly feel for the characters.

The relationship between characters is also highlighted in game when characters have specific dialogue for different characters. Here’s a compiled list of the all the character interactions.

Technology

Blizzard has invested heavily into building Overwatch and they built the game using their own proprietary engine. The game is available on PC and console. However, there is no cross platform play. In a fast pace action shooter, aiming with a analog stick can be very taxing on the user. Overwatch has an aim assist for consoles only (thankfully), which makes the game more accessible on console.

Mechanics

Players are split in two teams of six and their objectives are dependent on the four game modes: Control, Escort, Assault, Hybrid. The modes usually involve pushing of a payload, fighting for control of a point and attacking/defending a control area.

Players can choose from a roster of 26 heroes who have a wide variety of skills. All heroes have an ultimate ability that is charged overtime by doing damage or healing. Naturally, these heroes fill different roles in the team and many of them complement each other.

For example Zarya,  is able to suck a group of enemies together with her ultimate ability “Graviton Surge”. However, most of the time, she is unable to do much damage by herself. On the other hand Tracer  ultimate ability (pulse bomb) deals a large amount of AOE damage on to a target. The problem is, it is difficult land the bomb on an enemy.

However, by combining the two abilities together we can have this: 

Over time players pick up on these combinations and create popular strategies which in turn form the META (Most Effective Tactic Available)

 

Lens of Expression

Emotes

A basic form of self expression in Overwatch would be emotes. While emotes can be seen as a fun side feature, it is also a means to send messages to your team and enemy. An example would be to emote after killing an enemy as a means to taunt them.

Or you could kill them stylishly like this.

Mains

As their playtime and familiarity increases, players would gravitate towards a specific character. Players develop a special bond with their character, become an expert at it and “main” them. To main a character would mean to have that character a preferred hero. People have many reasons for “maining” a character – I believe this is thanks to unique personalities and playstyles of the heroes. It is not hard to find a character that “fits you like a glove”

Here’s a great video about the reasons for choosing a main in fighting games:

Additionally, “maining” places a label on themselves – to associate themselves with the character. And this becomes their identity that they are proud of.

https://www.reddit.com/r/GenjiMains/ (A subreddit for all Genji (a hero) mains)

Lens of Spectation

Being a 6v6 game with many mini engagements across the map, watching a game of Overwatch may be as hard as playing it. As Blizzard pushes for Overwatch as an esport, the experience of the spectator becomes more important.

Spectator Tools

In the Overwatch League (Blizzards Profession Esport League), there are variety of tools available for the broadcast team (observers) to give the viewers the full story.

A match at the Overwatch League Burbank studios

A match at the Overwatch League Burbank studios

Observers can have a birds eye view of an ongoing engagement, or go back in time to replay a particular moment that was not broadcasted to the audience. Teams are also given contrasting colours so that it is easier to differentiate them from one another.

I have one critique however: the spectator tools are not available in client for our ranked/casual games. Hopefully with its success in OWL, the tools may soon become available to all players.

Gameplay

As mentioned before, with many hours spent on the game, the player base as a whole slowly develops a META and if the game is not balanced properly, teams would only use one specific composition, leading to stale and boring games like these:

Image result for mirror comps overwatch

Notice the hero choice for both teams. In the dive META, teams would only field one team composition, leading to similar and boring games.

Thankfully, thanks the recent balance patches, the META has changed to favor a variety  of hero compositions (for now) and different heroes have become niche picks for different maps, leading to a fresh viewing experience every game.

 

Lens of Reward

While the most obvious reward in the game is winning and the matchmaking rating system, I will be focussing on rewards which apply to both the winning and losing team. (Something which i think Overwatch does well in)

Cards

At the end of the game, players gets to a screen of statistics. However, what Blizzard does well is that they only show good performances of the players. So even if you lose a game, the game still acknowledges your contribution to the team. Another great thing is that unlike many other games, the game keeps track of other metrics besides the kill count. Things like healing done and objective time gives a nod to that silent warrior doing his part for the team.

Image result for overwatch cards

Healing done and players teleported being recognized at the end of the game

Play of the Game

Another cool feature is play of game which highlights the a play made by an individual during the game. It is gives that player recognition that he did something impactful that game and also lets the player “show off” to his peers.

Well one thing, Blizzard could work on was the algorithm which decides what clips to play…

 

 

Borderlands 2

http://www.gearboxsoftware.com/game/borderlands-2/

Set on the wastelands of the distant planet Pandora, Borderlands 2 follows the tale of six Vault Hunters and their struggle against Handsome Jack. Developed by Gearbox Software and released in September of 2012, the game received a 5.4/10 rating on IGN. It also received 10/10 in Steam user reviews and 90% on Metacritic.

The game shows clear evidence of following many design lenses, and I believe it to be a good game. I shall explore the opening sequence of the game from the perspective of someone who has never played it before, and the lenses will crop up frequently even just in these first fifteen minutes of gameplay.

Welcome to Pandora, Kiddos.

I enter the first level of the game. My friendly robotic companion claptrap (a CL4P-TP steward bot) has found me in the midst of a blizzard, and immediately refers to me as a “Vault Hunter”. I’m not sure what to think of that just yet, but he seems thrilled and clearly wants me to save him from this cold ice field.

He hands me a heads up display (HUD) and useful information begins to appear on the screen. A health bar, currently deathly low; a mini-map, a level bar and some ammo information. After this, we begin walking. A girl appears before me as an image on the HUD, and claims to be there to help. She quickly disappears again.

This ties in well to lens 4. I’m already very curious about where I am, what I’m doing here, why the robot found me, and who this girl is. The game is clearly trying to grab my curiosity quickly by having lots of things happen without explaining them right away.

I follow claptrap to what appears to be his home. After exploring a little I’ve found some health packs in various containers as well as a small amount of money. A small table in the centre is surrounded on three sides by broken claptrap units. Evidently some gambling has taken place as evidenced by the stacks of money on the table, which I promptly steal. I chuckle slightly at the realization of how long claptrap must’ve been stuck here to get this lonely.

Lens 5, Endogenous Value, shows up in this way all over the world in containers. Exploration of the world is constantly being rewarded with the satisfying sounds of a crate opening and yielding money, ammo or weapons. In an expected way, the harder it is to reach a container the better the contents.

Claptrap assigns me my first mission of collecting a gun out of the case to the side. Thus introducing the lens 6 mechanic of being given missions by characters and completing them in order to receive lens 5 rewards, notably experience points and weapons.

Lenses 2 and 6 suddenly appear in the form of a massive animalistic creature bursting through the ceiling, tearing out claptraps eye and running off with it. The lens 2 surprise here is the act itself, and the lens 6 problem to solve is clearly claptraps lack of an eye. This also leads to many lens 3 jokes being made along the lines of claptrap bumping into walls and falling off of cliffs.

Lens 7: Elemental Triad

Aesthetics are clearly something that have been carefully considered in this game. The comic book style is present throughout and is appealing to look at. The story isn’t as deep as some, but the game is clearly driven by it.

The story is loosely set around Handsome Jack, the villain, wanting to eradicate bandits and villainy from pandora to create a safe haven. Vault Hunters are seen as powerful people in pursuit of weapons and skills, but Handsome Jack sees them as bandits. His character is complicated enough that many see him as the true good guy.

You can learn about the backstories of most of the main characters in the game through the collection of “Echo Logs” or voice recordings. Many of the side missions add dimensions to otherwise simple side characters.

The mechanic of randomised loot is a strong one in the game. The entire game could be seen as a simple quest for better and shinier weapons. Legendary and Pearlescent items are exceedingly rare yet often excessively powerful. Almost all the mechanics in this game are derived from the fact that it is a first person shooter game with role playing game elements.

The game has almost no basis in advances in technology, the game could’ve been created, albeit with worse graphics, years before it was. And indeed Borderlands 1 shares many of the technical aspects of the game, perhaps unsurprisingly.

Conclusion

The game clearly shows good evidence of following the lenses that were brought up in this discussion. I think the design of the game creates an enjoyable experience that rewards you almost every moment that you’re playing, be it through humorous dialogue, shiny new weapons or tough yet manageable bosses.

Katamari Damacy

Katamari Damacy is a puzzle-action game developed and published by Namco. The game was a product from a school project from the Namco Digital Hollywood Game Laboratory, where its development was guided by three key points: novelty, ease of understanding, and enjoyment. The gameplay revolves around a character, called the Prince, that is tasked to roll up items with an adhesive ball-like object called a katamari.

Lens of elemental tetrad

Mechanics

In a level-based setting, the player controls the Prince who rolls the katamari around the map. Items that are smaller than the katamari will stick to it upon contact, while bigger items may cause items to fall off the katamari upon collision. The simplicity of its mechanism meant that players with any amount of skillset could play the game without difficulty.

Story

The story follows the Prince’s mission in recreating the cosmos which has been destroyed by the King of All Cosmos’ in a drunken accident. With each completed level, the resulting katamari is sent into space to form either a star or a constellation. While the story has little to no bearing on the gameplay, the antics and eccentricities of the characters adds another layer of enjoyment to the game. The weirdness of the plot also sets the mood for the game in its quirky art style and surreal landscape, another factor that draws people to the game.

Aesthetics

The game makes use of its colourful visuals and interactive environment to create a delightful experience. A noteworthy feature of Katamari’s aesthetics would be its use of scale. As the katamari grows, the perspective of the player changes in correspondence to the size of the katamari. A player that was rolling around a man’s foot at the start of the level could later be staring down at the crown of his head. The effect is a feeling of empowerment and achievement.

Technology

Katamari Damacy was developed for the PlayStation 2. The use of analog sticks made for easier control with the inclusion of more complicated movements such as quick turn and acceleration.

Lens of Freedom

Katamari rewards its players on their progress with greater freedom. Each level was designed to limit the maximum size of the item on the map that can be picked up. As the player progresses through each level, a previous map may be revisited with an upgrade on the size limit, fulfilling the player with the gratification of rolling up a previously unreachable object. In some levels, a sufficiently large katamari could unlock an “eternal mode” which removes the time limit, allowing the player to explore the level to their heart’s content.

Lens of Surprise

Each level in the game is sprinkled with oddities and humour through interesting placements of objects. This keeps the player constantly entertained throughout the gameplay. A royal present can also be found in several levels, which will be opened at the end of the level to reveal a piece of wearable clothing item to personalise the character. These elements of surprise keep the game interesting despite the repetitive nature of its mechanism.

Lens of Inherent Interest

The game feeds on the inherent interest of the player in its mechanics and aesthetics. The game places the player in a fully-decorated map laden with opportunities of fun: interesting trinkets to collect and people to roll over. As the player moves the katamari around, the objects lying around the map constantly pokes at the player’s curiosity in wondering if they can be picked up.

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.