This analysis focuses on DayZ, a multi-player sandbox survival game. Created as a mod by Dean Hall for the video game ARMA 2, it is set in a post-apocalyptic world of zombies. The players’ ultimate goal is to survive, whether it is from zombies, other survivors or nature’s wrath.

 Lens #1: Essential Experience

DayZ easily manages to provide an essential experience the game designer intended for its audience. Highlighted near the end of this official trailer are the words – tragedy, paranoia, fear, teamwork, betrayal – which essentially are the emotions and feelings a typical player will constantly experience throughout the game. Take ‘paranoia’ for instance. Due to its survival genre, players ultimately have to stay alive by maintaining their thirst and hunger. However, because there are other players who also have to stay alive, there is a natural competition for these scarce resources (that keep players alive) imbibed within the game. This leads to paranoia in players, where overly-suspicious thoughts like – Should I trust this person? What if he kills me right after I save him? Is someone sniping at me now just so he can loot my corpse after killing me? ­– is incessantly present in every player’s mind.

Paranoia of being sniped through thermal scopes

The desolate status of a city that
adds to the fear of players

The atmospheric setting – a post-apocalyptic wasteland where any inhabitant could be your enemy, is likely what makes it essential to the experience as well. Painting the environment as an island of hopelessness, it enhances the emotions (e.g. fear) to the extent of creating such authenticity in the experiences players go through. And how DayZ fundamentally captures this essence is, in my opinion, the idea of ‘permanent death’ in the game. When one dies, he dies for good. Meaning he has to restart all over. I find this sly idea to be a brilliant mechanic in creating a more convincing experience through enhancing the above 5 emotions, where players are perpetually forced to tread lightly as every decision makes a difference between life and death.

Lens #5 – The Lens of Endogenous Value

This lens is probably used to an extreme extent, since almost everything in the game attributes to a player’s goal – to survive. Items, or rather, resources are scarce and scattered all over the virtual world. These resources range from consumables (e.g. food, medical supplies), to weapons/ammunitions, and even to vehicles, all of which are responsible for a player’s survivability, making them highly valuable, or even priceless.

However, such resources are often not easily obtainable as they are littered in compounds that are either flooded with zombies or being competed for by other players. This idea of potentially facing imminent dangers whilst scavenging for resources to keep oneself alive makes these loots even much more valuable. Not to mention the scarcity, which intensifies competition from other players, naturally leading to higher perception of value in certain resources.

A zombie-infested residential area containing loots

Evidently, there is a clear correlation between the value of resources and a player’s goal to stay alive – their values increase depending on the threat posed to a player. Suppose a person is close to death from bleeding; he views items that can sustain his life as the sole item that he absolutely needs at that point of time – perhaps, a blood bag. The value of blood bags in his eyes then soars, as each second passes that makes him lose even more blood. Such situations may produce unexpected results, where a player may go all out (e.g. betray and shoot an ally who has it but equally needs it) just to obtain that item due to its exaggeratedly perceived value.

Lens #38 – The Lens of Competition vs. Cooperation

Because of the extensive freedom that is provided to players in DayZ, I feel the most appropriate number to gauge on a scale of 1-10 (1 being competition and 10 being cooperation) would be 5.  But if given a choice, I would say there is no real fixed number, owing to the fact that players themselves are given the liberty to either play cooperatively with or competitively against other players. This dynamism makes it such that there is a fair share of both cooperation and competition.

It is common to see, when going from one server to another, a huge change in the play-styles. One server may harbor players who are realists, another who are liberalists, and another who are constructivists; but occasionally a blend from among the three. As such, depending on the players inhibiting a specific server, the number on the competition-cooperation scale alters dynamically due to frequent dichotomies in play-style preferences.

Players cooperating together

Hostile competition on sight among players

There may also be team competitions when a situation calls for them – for instance, two separate groups of players running out of food and needing to go to a mutual city to loot but there is only one vehicle. In this scenario, it makes sense for both groups to cooperate (for the time being), since there is no food to loot from killing the other group. However, whether solo or team competition is more fun, is completely dynamic and subjective. For instance, there could be spies in your team who betray you, which may either ruin or enhance the fun, depending on the player’s perspective.

Lens #65 – The Lens of the Story Machine

Again, because there is so much freedom for players, a player’s journey may differ from another’s by a great difference, which inadvertently means the contrasting choices they have to make. I would say the game’s tagline, ‘This is DayZ. This is your story’ speaks for itself and probably resonates with many players. Ultimately, every decision a player makes paves to the next situation he places himself in, slowly yet sub-consciously personalizing and constructing an identity for his journey. Furthermore, each choice he makes may affect another player’s story in DayZ. For example, a moral decision on whether to help someone escape from zombies or gun him down – figuratively given a carte-blanche, he determines whether to extend or end that escaping player’s story in DayZ.

Moral decision of saving or killing someone that alters both parties’ stories in DayZ

However, I believe the game rules do not affect the interest curves of stories as much as players themselves since it all boils down to the players who make their own decisions that affect their stories’ interest curves. While it is arguable that these decisions are governed by the rules that permit them, it still does not change the fact that players play a larger role in chronicling their own stories that determine the interest curves, given the amount of freedom they have.

On the subject of who cares about another player’s story, I observed that there are many who do care. Such people are normally ones who have experienced about-the-same journey, and would go ‘Hey, I went through the exact same thing as you‘. They are the ones who can relate to and empathize players with similar encounters.

Lens #91 – The Lens of Playtesting

DayZ may have taken the world by storm but just like any games, it has its flaws as well. Being an indie-mod developed by a single person, I can only speculate there was not as much playtesting prior to its launch compared to huge commercial games. The reason for this postulation is evidenced in the fact that DayZ is known to be a broken game full of bugs, hence the violation of this lens.

However, I believe not much can be done within Dean Hall’s capabilities (even with comprehensive playtesting) due to an underlying issue. Quoting Hall from an interview,  “There are a lot of issues associated with the mod, because it’s trying to get ARMA to do things ARMA was never intended for. So, that really opens it up for hacking, whole bunch of bugs, pathfinding issues and stuff like that“.

Despite all these, there are actually players who ‘play’ DayZ just to find bugs or post their experiences on forums, a few of which Hall resides in. These voluntary playtesters, as I would like to call them, are able to help Hall gain a better perspective of what needs to be improved. And it is through this exploitation of the power of these players, by tapping into ‘unintentional’ crowdsourcing, that allows for a somewhat continuous, incessant phase of (informal) playtesting even after the game’s launch.

StarCraft2: Wings of Liberty


StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty (SC2WOL) was release on July 27 2010. It is a science fiction real time strategy game built by Blizzard Entertainment as a sequel to StarCraft. It has sold nearly 4.5 million copies since its release. Various platforms have rated the game with a score from 9 to 10. In this analysis, I hold the view that despite SC2WOL may be the most successful RTS game we have in recent years, it is far from a very good RTS game.

Lens 36 Competition

SC2WOL makes the only legit platform to play multiplayer games, both quick matches and custom games. In quick matches, players play against each other in a chosen set of maps competitively to gain ladder points. And the players are constantly ranked according to how many points they have. Based on players’ abilities, they are put into different brackets, bronze, silver, gold, platinum, diamond, master and grand master. Brackets and rankings within brackets are made very clear with distinct icons. The system ensures that players will not have to face someone from a much higher or lower bracket so that quick matches are fair. Both professional players and new players can compete meaningfully in quick matches. The professional circle of SC2WOL is made of extremely skillful players. The community looks up to players who win games at professional level. Season1 ranking icons

Lens 20 Judgment

In ways described in previous analysis, SC2WOL does a very fine job judging players based on their skills. However, it backfires because such design has made quick matches extremely competitive. A large number of players developed “ladder anxiety” where they are too anxious to play on the highly competitive ladder and they developed fear of losing and being demoted. Players also start judging and laughing at each other based on their brackets. Overall, the ladder system has made the game very painful to play for casual players.

Lens 30 Fairness

As a continuation from the previous analysis, the ladder system designed for quick matches may have made the quick matches fairer. The complete lack of a ladder system has made custom games a total disaster. Custom games are where players play unofficial fan made maps. Most of these maps are competitive in nature. Without a proper system to match players with similar skill level, custom games become extremely painful. Skilled players looking for a quality match with worthy opponents often find themselves tangled to carry new players in games. The custom games in SC2WOL are simply unfair most of the time.

Lens 68 The Hero’s Journey

SC2WOL’s storyline follows that of StarCraft 1, it features a universe ravaged by alien creatures “the Zerg”. And human know as “the Terran” and another alien life form “the Protoss” are trying to save the universe. The plot is very interesting with a lot of twists. It features a number of heroes from different races; some sacrificed themselves for the greater good. The main character featured is named Jim Raynor in SC2WOL. He started off seeking his own revenge against the emperor of Kuprulu sector. After realizing humanity is in danger, he set aside his personal interests and worked with his enemy’s son on a quest to save the world. His best friend betrayed him in the end. The plots of StarCraft series were so good that the fan community has been asking years for a movie to be released. Personally, I bought the game just to play through the story line.

Jim Raynor sitting with Tychus in one of the cinematics

Lens 86 Community

SC2WOL has a very good players’ community. They have invented BarCrafting where fans sit together in a bar and watch StarCraft tournaments together. This almost never happens for other games. The community is very happening too. A lot of people work very hard to expose people to the game and a lot of major tournaments are going on throughout the year.

In conclusion, SC2WOL did a very good job bringing players together and give them a good enough reason to play this game. However, there are aspects people expect from a RTS game that SC2WOL fails to deliver. The quick matches which should be the main attraction of the game deters casual gamers because of the mechanics. The balance in custom games is simply broken. Sequel to SC2WOL will be coming out during March, lets hope enough is done to mend this franchise.

Link of community page:
Link of sample gameplay:

5 lenses with World In Conflict

This paper will do analysis on World In Conflict, a real-time tactics game from Ubisoft released in 2007, which has received generally excellent reviews (Gamespot 9.5/10, Editor’s Choice), by using 5 lenses in Jesse Schell’s book. World In Conflict depicts an imaginary world-war between USSR and USA in late 1980s.

Lens 6: The Lens of Problem Solving
World In Conflict is widely categorized as RTT (real-time tactics), The “tactics” word implies the matter of problem-solving in this game.
•    What problems to solve? The problem in this game is “How to destroy the other side or win the mission in the war with a fixed supply of resources (armory) within a definite length of time”. You should keep to keep your side alive or keep the position from being lost and find ways to move your troops wisely that the enemies can’t destroy yours. For example: Mission 14 (One Last Fight), you only have 45 minutes to complete the objectives “Save Seattle” to take back the position, with only a number of supply units, if you can’t solve in 45 minutes, you lose. This is not easily placing your troops around and the computer will solve all for you, but, you should place them in strategic positions or at suitable times to maximize the gain of your side.
•    Hidden problems: There are plenty of extra missions to gain badges aside of main missions. If you can finish extra mission (secondary objectives), you can have more supply units as a reward.
•    New problems are generated every main as well as secondary objectives, constituting the whole problem of the game: how to defeat USSR in war.
Lens 21: The Lens of Functional Space
•    Spaces in WIC are discrete: all over the world from France, North Europe to USA (Seattle and New York). However, they are connected in a theme: the whole world is in a war, and they are all tactical locations of the war.
•    In each map, it is usually divided into some important position that you should care for, they are “positions” to hold or occupy where the war is happening. Other places are usually having no game happenings, or controlled by AI and you don’t have to care about.
•    You view the space (game backdrop) via 3D 360-degree third person perspective. Also you can manage the whole war (especially in distributing troops, directing troops and directing tactical weapon) using Radar Map.
Lens 25: The Lens of Goals
•    The ultimate goal of WIC is to defeat the opponents, the USSR, in every missions, every levels. Some objectives even don’t mention about defeating the other side, just about improving your side, your armory, but the ultimate goal is still to defeat, to destroy the opponent agent in the game.
•    The goal is really clear to gamer.
•    The series of goals, as mentioned, is the chain of main objectives combined into missions, and missions combined into the game.
Example: Mission 1 “Invasion!” consists of objectives “Rescue The Infantry”, “Secure The Supply Depot”, etc.
•    The goals are related in a meaningful way. Considering Mission 9, Objective 1 Secure Submarine One, then you move to securing submarine Three (2), then you move to hold submarine Three. WIC combines of goals chained by this pattern: Secure – Move on – Reoccupy – Hold.
•    The goal is rewarding (badge rewards).
•    Goal solutions are decided by users. You control your side continuously to win. If you just watch your side in WIC and don’t do anything, you will lose PC AI and can’t achieve the goal.
Lens 27: The Lens of Skill
•    The skill in WIC is mental skill. Certainly because this is a tactical game. You should wisely decide how to buy good armor at different missions, different times. You should watch out the terrain, watch out the balance between you and the opponent side. Sometimes it requires agility to click fast, move fast due to time restrain.
•    The skills can be practiced. You play frequently and you realize the best way to combine different type of armors, vehicles, and infantry to form the best troop. You make familiar with the map and reduce time of decision.
•    High level of skill is required for Hard mode, where time limit is really strict, and PC side has much more intelligent AI and discernibly stronger than you (faster vehicle movement, more stamina…).
Lens 39: The Lens of Time
•    WIC has a good management of gameplay with regards to time. Time for a mission (in medium level) is usually 1 to 2 hours. Some missions are longer, especially those concern with larger map and larger troops with more armory. This gives the players a thrilling experience with large-scale warfare. Minor objectives (occupy vacant position, gather troops) cost less time. The time distribution is really balanced. This reminds that WIC is a real-time tactics game, which should stimulate the real warfare in a reasonable timeframe.
•    Time limit in some missions makes the game really exciting, which users should always think of the best way to manage the troops around the map: move and move fast. Mission 5 in WIC really provides you with a thrilling experience of time: calling an atomic bomb and you should evacuate the position in 30 minutes time.
•    Time in tactical support calling: for a tactical weapon (that you can just only call and wait for some minutes of time to take it), this really makes the game realistic. In reality, you cannot call and get the bombing plane right after that, but you should wait until they fly to you. Especially, “stronger” tactical weapon takes more time to come, which makes you sense the matter of tradeoff: you should make a good choice when playing.

Tomb Raider: Legend

One of the games I have often enjoyed playing is Tomb Raider – an adventure game where the daring heroine, Lara Croft is an archaeologist in search of ancient artefacts. There are several installments of the game with varying storylines but the central goal and the course of action have remained similar – to collect clues and relics while fighting any enemies or supernatural monsters to unravel a mystery. Of the few different Tomb Raider games I have played, ‘Legend’ created a lasting positive impression with Crystal Dynamics taking over the franchise as developers, providing smoother graphics and controls. I’d like to examine some of the positives and negatives of this particular version using some of the lenses described in this course.


The game offers fluid motion and control, setting it milestones apart from the earlier versions where the movement of the character was confined to grids. This makes Lara more lifelike. Every action has detailed animation to resemble natural movements and expression. When using a console such as PS2, the player is able to feel the vibrations from falling objects and sometimes the character’s own movements, on the joystick. The ability to interact with several objects from the environments and use them as necessary makes the gameplay more interesting. A well-crafted storyline, concise dialogues and a carefully designed character profile add to the overall experience, keeping the player motivated to stay on the quest. (The Lens of Experience)

The main task of the protagonist in the story is to navigate through an unfamiliar environment and locate clues. Often, this requires good use of the available tools and objects in the surroundings. For instance, Lara may have to use her magnetic grapple where appropriate, to enable a jump. Or she may have to look for movable boulders, boxes, etc. to hold a door open or to prop in position for a climb. While sometimes it is very obvious what Lara must do next, at other times, the player could get stuck trying to figure out the same. Hence, the game is neither too easy, nor too difficult in this aspect, and this keeps the player interested in forging ahead. (The Lens of Problem Solving)

The flow in the story is gradual and consistent. With every level, a new part of Lara’s character profile or history is revealed and we understand her motives better. And at the end of each level, the player finds himself/herself inching closer to solving the mystery. Though there are discrepancies in the storyline when comparing with other versions of the game (for example, the age and the manner in which Lara lost her parents), there are no flaws within this installment of the game itself. (The Lens of Flow)

The game hosts a combination of Action and Adventure. However, it only requires a set of repetitive moves to tackle an enemy, regardless of the difficulty setting, making the Action part of the game far too easy. Besides, the game only allows third person shooting. And while the game’s real strength lies in the Adventure involved, the puzzle remains the same on all difficulty levels. Thus, it appears that these difficulty levels defined have no huge impact on the player’s experience. Only small portions of the game are timed (for instance, when Lara goes underwater, she may have to cross a specific area before she loses her breath) and the game overall has no sense of challenge or urgency. (The Lens of Challenge)

Throughout the game there are several unimportant rewards (Gold/Silver/Bronze) that Lara comes across. Collecting all of them at a certain level might, for instance, allow the user to change her outfit. This is not a particularly valuable reward and does not help Lara in any way in reaching her goal. In my opinion, this idea is somewhat distracting and brings down the seriousness of the story. According to several reviews, users are often focused on completing the game itself and simply ignore these rewards. Instead of letting the player unlock costumes, upgrading Lara’s equipment or giving her new assault tricks may have been more useful. (The Lens of Endogenous Value)

On the whole, the game offers a thrilling experience with its smooth graphics and intriguing environments. However, for the most part, it is a very easy game and is unlikely to make anybody want to play it more than once due to lack of a powerful challenge.

– Krithika Sundararajan