Archive for October, 2013

So for the client project I decided that I was going to model a shoe shine box from the asset list.

The shoe shine box is exactly what it says it is, a box used for shining shoes. The patron would place their shoe on the stand on top of the box, as can be seen in the screenshot above, then the shiner would set to work on it.

There were many shoe shiners back in 1914, it was a good trade for those that needed to earn some money if they didn’t have any other way to do so.

In the image above, a man is sat next to his fully fledged show shine stand, where a patron would sit in one of the two chairs and have their shoes shined while they sat and read a newspaper or watched people go by.  Of course if you didn’t have the money to create a stand as professional as this one, the shiner would have to carry their supplies with them and ask people if they wanted their shoes shining as they walked along the street.

During the First and Second World Wars, while the men were sent off to the fronts to fight, children would take up the role of shoe shiner in order to help bring money into the house.

Facebook is a social networking site that was created by college student Mark Zuckerberg back in 2004. It quickly spread and became a worldwide hit with the public as it gave people the freedom to post their pictures, inner thoughts and questions in a domain where their friends and family could see them and comment and send replies and answers. It also gave people the freedom to add their friends and families onto their own personal “friends list” as they could set their profile settings to private, meaning anyone wishing to view their page had to be on that list otherwise they would be locked out of that persons “private” world. I use the word private loosely there as a social networking site rarely brings about that sense of privacy that people tend to crave. But onto the interactivity of the site itself.

As we all know it is pretty straightforward when it comes to using Facebook, everything is laid out in a nice, neat and tidy format that people can interact with and work their way around with minimal effort, even those that aren’t very computer savvy can get away with using the social networking site.

As can be seen in the screen shot, everything is nice and simple, the example above is a little outdated but it still does the trick. Facebook is nice and simple with a layout that just about anybody can navigate if they look hard enough, of course as we all know, changing our personal settings can become a bit of a headache which is fair enough because let’s face it, if things were too easy it would take the fun out of finding things.

The chat box is in the bottom right of the screen, out of the way but instantly accessible to those that wish to send a message to their friends instantly, or if they prefer to send a message to their friends that they can view at a later date, then they can go into their messages or click on their friends name and leave them a message in a message box, their friend will then receive a message notification in the top left of their screen, indicating that they have a new message from someone they know.

Users can easily switch from the homepage of Facebook and slide on over to their own personal profile, where they can then upload photos, personal thoughts and other tidbits to their “Wall” where others on their friends list can view them and leave comments. They can of course also do this through the homepage, but some people are a little touchy and like to work through their profile instead. Each to their own. They can also look through their existing photos and their friends list if they need to find someone that they need to message.

Personal experiences

When I first signed up to Facebook at the behest of a friend, I was a little skeptical to say the least as it was a brand new website that was unlike anything I had seen before and of course, when you are only a teen, you never think it is going to last. So I spent a little time on it and soon I was talking with friends from other towns and villages that I would otherwise only see when I was in school or I would be able to bug my parents from my room, it was all good fun and the time I spent on the site soon began to creep up and up as more time was spent surfing around on it.

Over time they also started to include games on the site for people to play, offering them something else that kept the site running, because instead of people going to other websites to play games, they could now play games while they were talking to their friends on Facebook, which was of course pretty neat and now an entire gaming culture has grown as Facebook has expanded its domain and the list of games that can be played has grown with it.

Facebook is without a doubt a successful website and one that is likely going to be hard to beat anytime in the near future, it is addictive and a great way to stay in touch with friends and family that have either moved away or you haven’t seen in a while. It also offers you a place to air your thoughts about things and get peoples feedback, even if sometimes they do think that your sanity or morals may have taken a nosedive off a cliff, but that’s just people for you.

I could go on and on about the social networking site, but I don’t want to bore you wonderful readers too much.

Ogame is a space based browser game that runs within real time. This means that while it is a game, the events that take place within it are timed at the same speed as the time within the real world.

Within the game, the player takes on the role of an Emperor, commanding the resources of a single planet, building and expanding until they have a vast space empire, complete with fleets filled with hordes of space crafts.

The screen cap above is an image of the utility buildings, which are broken down into the Robotics Factory, Shipyard, Research Lab, Alliance Depot, Missile Silo, Nanite Factory and Terraformer. These buildings up the player to build other things quicker, expand the size of their planets, defend against enemy invaders and conduct research at increased rates.

The game itself is interesting enough to play and is completely free to those that want to play it. I would have to say that it works within the realms of Agon due to the fact that each player is placed onto the rankings board, so that they can see how they are doing compared to other players within the game. It also take place within Mimicry due to the back story of the player taking on the role of an Emperor in charge of a space empire.

In terms of Flow, the game doesn’t really achieve this as the player doesn’t have to focus too intently on what is happening within the game, instead working within the parameters of real time and building up their own space empire while monitoring the activities of those around them in the game. There isn’t really any need for them to achieve flow in this game as there aren’t any really intense action parts or interactive components where the player is going to really have to focus to achieve something. It is more based around strategy, long term and short term plans and generally being able to work within the parameters of the game.

The next game I looked at was the Facebook game Bejeweled Blitz.

The game is simple, connect three or more of the same gem to clear them, destroy as many gems as possible within the 1 minute time limit and see where you rank against your friends that also play the game.

From an aspects of play perspective, the game easily falls within the Agon aspect as there are several competitive components present. The time limit, the score keeping and the leadership board are all contributing factors for this game.

I also want to hint at a very slight Alea aspect within the game, as the gems are all set at random on the board and the gems that fall down to take the place of removed gems are all random gems too, meaning the nature of the board is always changing and the player has to continue with matching up the gems on an ever shifting board of randomly dropped gems.

While playing the game, it can become quite intense, with the time limit ticking away, the player has to focus pretty much instantly to stand the best chance at creating a decent high score. This brings about a state of flow quite quickly and it is very easily maintained throughout the time limit of the game, with it only being broken if the player stops being able to find valid moves within the board. The only other way Flow can be broken for the player is when the time limit runs out or an outside force breaks their concentration.

 

Knightmare Tower is another flash game that I decided to look at for the Aspects of Play research.

This game is quite fun and of course requires a level of focus and concentration, which can lead to Flow very easily and indeed I did achieve flow in the time that I spent playing the game, especially as I progressed through further and further into the game when it became more difficult and really tested your skills.

You play a Knight, obviously, and you have to rescue a group of princesses by scaling this tower that they are all trapped in, the twist being that the knight doesn’t travel up the tower in a conventional way. Instead of running up through the castle via a staircase and defeating monsters within each room, you launch the knight up the tower on a rocket (Which can be upgraded as you progress) and you have to defeat enemies that progressively become harder to kill as you fly up the levels of the tower, rescuing a princess after reaching a certain height.

There are various enemies to defeat throughout the game, some of which can be seen in the screenshot above. There are more of them and they become increasingly difficult to defeat as you get closer to the top of the tower and towards the final boss fight. Of course it would be impossible to complete but due to the foresight of the developer, they have included a very handy list of upgrades that the player can purchase at the end of each run, improving armour, flight speed and of course, the weapon, making enemies easier to defeat and ensuring that the knight reaches the top of the tower. There are also bonus challenges to complete, so that the player can gain extra gold and complete achievements within the game.

In terms of Aspects of Play, I would have to say that it definitely doesn’t fall into Agon, as it isn’t a multiplayer game and there isn’t really a competitive edge to the game as the player just goes at their own pace and the aim of the game is to just save the princesses and then defeat the final boss at the top of the tower. It falls into Mimicry though, as the player assumes the role of the knight that has to scale the tower.

I imagine that spectators wouldn’t be able to achieve flow as they are spectating and not really taking an active part in the game play, but they would be able to find some entertainment in the game as the player struggles to reach each designated height so that they can rescue the princesses and eventually complete the game.

It’s a fun little game that kills some time and offers entertainment for those that are spectating and the player can easily achieve Flow within the game as they have to focus on defeating the enemies and progressing through the game.

Elements is a browser based card game that I began playing recently, partly for the research aspect but also because one of my tutors informed me about it and as soon as I started playing it I was hooked.

The game is simplistic and yet incredibly complex, with a small collection of cards available for each element within the game, giving the player access to any type of deck they can imagine. When the player first starts playing and logs in for the first time, they choose the deck type that they wish to start playing with. Later, once they have won some games and accumulated the required currency, they are then able to buy new cards and alter their decks, thereby changing the nature of the deck and the way it works.

In terms of game play, it’s rather basic, as can be seen in the screenshot above. The board is laid out so that the player can see the number of cards in their deck and their Health Points (Bottom left of screenshot) Along with the Quanta that they have generated through their cards. Quanta is a little hard to explain, but to try and put it simply, it is the in game resource that each player creates and spends in order to play the cards from their hand. For those of us that play other cards games too, Quanta would be Mana within the game Magic the Gathering and Energy cards in Pokemon.

The game is terribly addictive, as I found out myself when I found that I had been playing it for 5 hours straight within the first day of playing it. Talk about achieving flow within the game right!! The simplistic nature of the game is itself interesting due to the nature of the game and the possibilities that become available once the player grasps the basic concepts of the game, along with the effects that the cards have on the state of play within each match.

This game definitely falls into each category of Alea, Agon and Mimicry. Let’s break this down a little bit.

Agon: The game falls into this category because it is like all over card games of this nature, the player creates a deck of cards, then pits themselves against another player within a match that has predefined rules, with each player working within these rules to beat one another. The condition of victory within this game is another aspect of Agon that drives the player to create a deck that works well enough to overcome the barriers the other player will put in their way. The players tally their victories and losses on the main menu outside of each match, with their deck score also being recorded. Players can even challenge their friends to games so that they can compare their decks and “deck test” the capabilities of their constructed decks, to see where the weak points are along with how they can strengthen their deck to make it work a lot more consistently.

Alea: As with any deck of cards, there is always that element of chance within the drawing of a card from a deck that is face down. Until the player is staring at it, they have no idea what card they are drawing from the top of the deck and there is no way they can determine this before hand. Therefore while the game is competitive in nature, there is also that aspect of chance and of course, it can either swing in the players favour or it can swing against them.

Mimicry: Behind every major card game, there is a story and an aspect of the player taking on the role of someone else within the world that has been created to support the game. In Magic the Gathering, players take on the role of a Planeswalker and their deck is their library, with each card within being a spell that they cast. In Elements, each player assumes the role of an Elemental, taking up their library of spells so that they can defeat rival Elementals and their decks.

Flow

It is safe to say that this game becomes an addiction rather quickly, especially to those that work with other card games. Once the player starts up and begins to learn about the cards that they are using, they can expand themselves and work a lot more broadly within the rules and cards that they have at their disposal.

I found that within games, it was very easy to enter a state of flow, because during a game, each turn is a state of choices and decisions that have to work against your opponent while not leaving yourself open to defeat. Therefore you have to focus on the game at hand, along with all of the other aspects that come into play while the game is taking form and the board state is created. However, with no two games being the same, it is safe to say that while the player can achieve flow while they are in a particularly stimulating match, this shall not always be the case.

If the player creates a deck or comes across a deck that works better than theirs and the game is relatively short lived, then the player may become aggravated and they shall not achieve flow due to the nature of the game that they are playing, while at other times they shall achieve flow easily due to the game becoming mentally stimulating and they shall find the game that much more enjoyable.

So the second game that we took a productive amount of time looking at was BlazeBlue. Which is a fighting game. And annoying.

So this is another game that falls into the Mimicry and Agon aspects of play, because as a fighting game, it tends to get competitive within the matches as players try to outfight and beat one another, but within this game there are different fighting styles unique to each character, so it comes down to learning the fighting style of characters to make them effective within the matches. Frustration does not even begin to describe how difficult I found this game to play.

Suffice to say that Flow was not achieved because I became very frustrated with the game, trying to learn the fighting style all the while playing against someone else who seemed very adept at the game, even though it was also their first time playing it. Once you got the hang of a particular character and learnt a certain combination of moves that made them effective, it was a little less frustrating, but the game for me wasn’t that enjoyable and I doubt I would play it again if the chance arose.

While watching the game it wasn’t all that exciting either, I didn’t achieve flow while spectating, because while a fighting game tends to be enjoyable to watch, such is the situation within Smash Bro’s Brawl and Tekken, the fighting tends to be slow and clunky within BlazeBlue, with the players having to move back and forth, mashing their buttons and trying to figure out their characters while trying to beat one another. Somehow I get the feeling that they didn’t experience flow either.

There are some interesting parts to the game as well. The way the characters have their own fighting style to compliment their look and personality works rather well. If the player spends the time and puts in the effort to learn the technique for the characters, they can soon become accomplished players of the game and therefore they will very much be more enjoyment out of it and they may achieve flow through this. The soundtrack compliments the game as well as it doesn’t overpower the sounds that the characters make when they move, and it doesn’t distract the players from the main point of the game, which is to fight. Indeed it tends to set the mind into the train of thought and pattern that is commonly seen within movies whenever there is an intense and extended fight scene. They feel heightened emotions and they may focus more on the combat within the game, thereby achieving flow. But once again I feel that this may be more in line with players that have had lengthy sessions on the game learning the characters fighting styles.