In this post we will discuss the use of audio and visual content and how we perceive it, involving reactions to events that occur and how the games generate emotion within us.
Firstly, we have Terraria.
Terraria is an Action/RPG indie game, and was released in 2011 by independent game studio Re-logic. Via a large digital distribution platform called Steam, players embark on an extremely stylized adventure. The game allows for single player or multiplayer, giving people the choice as if to let their friends join in or not – and the servers work independently from characters, meaning if you need a certain bit of a help, a friend can hop in with his character from a different game session and give you whatever you need.
Okay, down to the nitty gritty.
Visuals are stylized, as briefly mentioned before. The game holds out to a very old SNES style 16 bit sprite graphics format, with colours that stand out and are generally appealing. Distinguishing the different peices of landscape from each other is very easy, and therefore the game is very easy on the eyes. The lighting system is of utmost quality, and it is very common to play this for longer periods of time due to its addictive long term nature. There is an element of immaturity in its style of graphics, as if it were a Cartoon. Yet, the style is so polished and refined with the lighting system, it is hard to ignore the games serious intent on driving the player to explore and feel somewhat immersed.
So lets make a visual list.
- 16 bit graphics and colour style
- Block shaped environment, keeping to the aforementioned style
- lighting system does not refer to blocks, and seems a lot more natural – dynamic and static lighting.
- User interface is minimal, keeping more focus on the motion of the picture instead of its static information for the player.
The game plays at a smooth frame rate with the camera locked onto the player, giving a sense of “Anchorage.” The fact that the player can see items that the character within the game would not, gives the player more incentive to look around his environments, as he is not entirely restricted on line of sight.
Why would the developers go for this style? Gaming nowadays strives for originality and graphics, two key factors that most people take into consideration when watching or playing any media product in general really, they want something engaging and exciting, something that tends to peoples wants in a way which will satisfy them in the long run. Giving the game this side scrolling 16 bit style enables users to further enjoy a quirky game which mixes older graphics with newer more modern ways to render – giving those who loved the older generations of games a good bit of nostalgia to know that these are being refined and further developed, keeping the style with the modern age.
But what about Audio? In terms of visuals, there is not much to say about the game other than it all fits very well in a certain style, but does the audio pertain to this style?
In essence, almost perfectly. The soundtrack in the game takes into account the various areas which someone might be travelling within, and in doing so, alters the soundtrack to fit accordingly. Not only does this bring a further amount of immersion to the player, but the style of the music also fits perfectly with the SNES 16bit style, further refined by our modern technology. This only further reinforces the fact that the developers made the game fully aware of its style and potential, they had immediately narrowed their target market to be refreshing for older gamer, while keeping the intuitive modern refinement in order to make the game appealing to those who look for good visuals or audio – further bringing the two types of people closer together, and therefore widening their market. The chimes and stuttering 16 bit chirping gives it all the more stylized approuch, further reinforcing its place within the game.
When it comes to other audio, the sounds reflect on the games actions very well – still keeping to the style of the 16bit SNES, but also again bringing in the refinement of modern day sound generation. Sounds are simple, have many variations, and reflect on what the player is doing, or whats going on around him. Breaking a certain block will create different sounds to another, and even being hurt somewhat creates a variation of sounds. The sounds reflect visuals very well, where picking up an item will give you a small notification and sound – as to not impede any movement or playing, but to lightly inform the player via text and sounds that a certain event has occurred. The developers have gone for a more “Free” experience over cut scenes, trying to let the player feel immersed without immediately breaking their concentration with random cut scenes, only further emphasizing the “Sandbox” feel, as to which the developers have spent so much effort in trying to create.
Story – What story? When evaluating this product as a game in terms of progression or story, it is considered a sandbox game. This is the referring to the fact that there may be set goals throughout the game, that it is the players decision on how to approach these goals, or whether to approach them at all. Giving such freedom to a player allows him to explore at his own right, without him feeling the need to rush through the game or spend too much time preparing, and while there is a /slight/ linear order in which players would unlock or gain access to new areas, it does not impede the player from researching or playing before any major goals – and when said goals have been completed, it is his discretion as of what to do next. There isn’t particularly a story line, as the developers have given the players the tools to create their own story during they play. Everything the player does is a players decision, and is not further enforced by scripts.
Enough with the pro’s, lets go for the cons. First of all, the game has issues when it comes to the multiplayer. The game is made to be a cooperative experience (With a singleplayer option), but because of the games odd way of letting clients use their OWN information instead of the servers, it means that game play can be thwarted with bugs or technical glitches that don’t halt the game, but prove to be a little annoying. With doors breaking or some certain entities not appearing for other people, invisible mobs appearing and slaughtering people out of nowhere, it seems the developers have focused a little too much in the refinement of their audio and visuals and not quite cracked down on the coding of the game. That also being said, due to its sandbox nature there is very little help and guidelines as what to do – the game promotes exploration yet there are certain tasks that must be completed before a certain area is accessible, how were we supposed to know? Thankfully there is a brilliant community that allows guides and modifications to the game in order to enhance a players experience with the vanilla version, or spice it up with player made content. The game itself shortly after release only saw a few minor updates before the developers completely stepped away from supporting the product, something which many players were outraged by because of the aforementioned bugs and such (whilst the developer has now apparently come back, a year later)
Next up is the vastly successful and widespread game, League of Legends.
League of legends is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA for short), Developed and published by Riot games. This game was inspired by a community created modification for another game, who’s developers are now working within both Valve software’s “Dota 2” and riot game’ “League of Legends”. It is free to play game, allowing anyone to download and play the game with no restrictions other than some small cosmetic micro-transactions.
The game was well received at release and has gradually gained popularity over the five years it has been out, the game consisting of two teams of five competitively battling it out for dominance over one level, at either ends of the level are the team bases which must be destroyed by the opposite team.
So, without further ado we’ll go into how this game was received by the audience in general. The game was favorably reviewed and was scored an average of 8/10. IGN in specific, a large gaming industry specialist corp awarded an 8.0, speaking highly of the quirky game design of both the graphical and artistic style along with the game play elements. However, they do comment about how the community can be very harsh, those who have played the game for a considerable amount of time are often very antisocial and almost hateful to those who are new to the game. There is also a lot of internal controversy about “Trolling”, considering there is a somewhat lack of un-moderated game play that includes grief, harassment and bullying. That being said however, the game has over 32 million registrations, 12 million of which are online worldwide per day, with the global concurrent peak at about 5 million players.
The visual style is nice, it holds a slightly animated or cartoony approach with vastly saturated colours of green and blue, particularly due to the nature of the scene and its natural atmosphere. Effects for various animations and particles are lively and quick, often trying to give the sense of “Burst” action, a very quick and powerful way of expressing combat. The frame rate is smooth and locked at a maximum of 80 frames a second, with the ability to lock the frame rate into other values if you so desire. However, the visuals can also be a factor which can take away focus from the game, as because they are a little enthusiastic in their appearance, they can often distract the viewer considerably when everyone is together with big effects, often deterring you from whats important and making you pull your head away as your eyes squint to make out whats happening.
The audio style is rather nice, and there are some nice queues that go well with the visual aspect. While there are only a few music tracks to the game and they do get a little repetitive and boring over time, the overall style speaks of a fantasy genre that picks up a little in pace as the game progresses, allowing the player to feel like they are gradually achieving something and working toward a better goal – which is a good thing in this case. From the game play video of myself and lucy, our reactions to certain situations were varied. Some particular times we had done something which we knew was a little silly, and then get irritated because we know its silly. Other times we do very well, and laugh about our success. Overall, it is a game which can go either good or bad, but the frustration level can certainly match the level of joy you get when your in the winning situation.
The user interface is another aspect of gaming which is important, the way that the user or viewer reads text, the use of symbols and such in order to access information quickly and informatively. Whilst Terraria had a very “Rogue” like style of doing things, that depended on you to explore the options available to you within the sandbox realm, the League of Legends is very spoon fed so that you can just get on and play the game. Each aspect of the game is explained in detail so that the fast paced game-play can be concentrated on rather than other technical aspects, although even this might be a little much for the newcomers as previously mentioned might be neglected, and isn’t so much of an issue with Terraria.
Overall, both games are very different in their design and appeal to certain target markets. Terraria is a quirky game that wants to expand into people of any generation of gaming with the promise of a calm experience of co-operative play, whilst league of legends is a game which focuses on fast paced competitive game play for those who like to scream in joy or rage at their monitors. Either way, each to their own!