Emotional Realism In Computer Games

Been meaning to publish this for some time.  It is an essay I wrote recently about the emotional realism in computer games…

“While photorealistic animation and gaming visuals offer a graphic realism, in what ways have contemporary titles such as Half Life 2 (Valve, 2004) succeeded or failed in expressing an emotional realism?”

Introduction

Computer games have achieved many realistic effects and are constantly improving each and every day as they continue to define and push new technology to its limits.  Game developers have already acquired the skills enabling them to create photorealistic environments, characters and experiences in game worlds but how do they successfully create emotion?  There are a number of ways emotion can be expressed in a game; the most obvious is through storyline.  However, other effective techniques are more subtle and can be created within the character design, the environments, animations, audio and how the player portrays the game world as a whole.  To explore this question I will be looking at the series of games created by Lorne Lanning at Oddworld Inhabitants, Abe’s Oddysee (GT Interactive Software, 1997), Abe’s Exoddus (GT Interactive Software, 1998), Munch’s Oddysee (Microsoft Games, 2001) and Strangers Wrath (Electronic Arts, 2005), with particular focus on Abe’s Oddysee.  While looking at these games, as well as a number of other references, I will explore the different aspects of the game design and look at how they trigger different emotions within us as a player.

Emotion is an important factor in good game design as it makes the player believe in what is happening and feel involved with the events that occur during game play.  It helps give the feeling of urgency and reinforces the actions in which the game is instructing us to take.  The Oddworld games are an incredibly popular series.  I believe a huge contributing factor to their success is the way they invite the player into the unique game world.

Emotional Triggers in Game Characters

Characters are often an important part of a game and being able to relate to the characters, especially the main playable characters, is essential.  A number of conscious design decisions have been made for all of the Oddworld characters with close consideration to their roles in each of the games.  The most widely known character is Abe the Mudokon, the main character for the first two games; Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus.  I will use Abe as my example as I discuss the character design aspects and how they enforce emotion upon us.

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Scene Sample

Been messing in Maya again.  Experimenting with bump mapping and lighting.  Think the lighting needs work but it gets accross the general mood for now.  This scene will be part of the chase scene in the Dark Findings trailor video.

Squawx

It has been a long long time since I last posted here, but a new project has started and I will be doing my best to get back in the flow of blogging up my work.

This semester we are looking at the concept document and need to create one for a game idea based on an activity in nature.  My work partner, Luke, and I have decided to look at the mechanic of flight and are playing around with the idea of a hunting game using the formations of thermals and landscapes to locate your prey.  We are naming the game Squawx- Fly, Feed, Survive.

The Specifics of Level Design in World of Goo

World of Goo is a 2D puzzle game that requires the player to build a large variety of structures made up from the characterful goo balls that inhabit that world. The aim is for the player to create a path out of some of the goo balls enabling the rest of them to safely travel to a pipe situated in every level. I will be discussing the core specifics of the level design as well as looking at how meaning is added into the game and how a successful play experience is created.

World of Goo boasts a strong surreal world full of character and emotion. Its smooth dreamlike landscapes, pastel hues and deep darks make for a pleasing aesthetic which compliment the games theme very well. A strong technique that has been used in many of its levels is something called the savannah paradine. Savannah paradine is a term that is used to describe the arrangement of the colours on screen and their relation to the setting. If you imagine a savannah landscape, you have a rich blue sky, lush green on the horizon and a tan brown ground. It has been biologically proven that humans find this environment the most pleasing and sought after, for example many people travel abroad to hot countries where a similar environment and/or colour base can be naturally found. Judith Heerwagen, in her article on the Psychosocial Value of Space states “Drawing on habitat selection theory, ecologist Gordon Orians argues that humans are psychologically adapted to and prefer landscape features that characterized the African savannah, the presumed site of human evolution….

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Maya – Cheshire Cat

My first model attempt in Maya.  I am currently working on a Maya project where our characters all have to be under 500 polygons.  This kitty is 214 polygons.  He is not purfect (Get it? hehe) but rather pleased for my first go at it.   I have already learned a few no no’s 😛 Especially when trying to duplicate and mirror 😐