About Me: Lennox Seminar Version
It has been quite some time since I last posted so I'm just going to reintroduce myself to everyone for this semester. I'm Ray, a senior Communication and Chinese major at Trinity University. I also serve as the Station Manager for TigerTV, and spend most of my time filming or video editing or trying to manage the TigerTV Budget.

In my spare time, I also spend time gaming. Last semester, I played Dungeons and Dragons Online for the games for the web class. I have stopped playing Dungeons and Dragons since then, but I am still interested in learning about virtual worlds and interactive media. I am looking forward to meeting everyone.

Collaborative Research Challenges
Collaborative research is becoming more and more convenient. Technology is allowing people to share information and pass on information within seconds. However, despite the speed and convenience of technology today, is it really any easier for two people to collaborate just through the use of technology? One particularly interesting study by Jonathan Cummings and Sara Kiesler compared collaborative research inter-disciplinary collaboration and much broader collaboration among multiple universities. Cummings and Kiesler noted the technologies usually utilized in collaborative research, but also noted some issues with these technologies.

Email was identified as a communication tool that was used heavily. However, it was noted that email encouraged allocating tasks rather than sharing information, and that other communication technologies such as phone or video conferencing did not have an added advantage. The study also listed off some elements of collaboration that communication technologies should aid in order to improve collaborative research. Among these were simultaneous group decision-making, reducing information overload, scheduling, and organization. From reading the article, it seems the big problem isn't communication but organization. Being able to organize the massive amounts of information available to us through the many communication technologies is one challenge, but another challenge is how to share information on the internet. The study noted the limitations and issues with email, so are wikis the way of the future for collaborative research? Clearly, communication technology has greatly improved collaborative research, but there are still issues that need to be addressed within the area of collaborative research.

Could Wikis solve these issues? Here is a short video on wikis.

Comparison: DDO vs. Free Realms
Free Realms and DDO are similar in their foundation but very different in gameplay. Both games feature a rich environment of non-playable characters who give quests and users who can come together to complete these quests. User interface is also very much the same. The text box is actually located in the same part of the screen in both games and user controls are pretty much the same as well except for a couple minor differences. What really helps these games is the easy entry into the game. Anyone who has access to the internet can play free realms without having to pay a cent. The process to playing DDO is more complicated as players have to not only sign up but download the huge game onto their PC, but DDO is still just as accessible as Free Realms and this has helped both games become more appealing to their target markets. Besides these simularities, the games are very different in other aspects such as target market, entry behavior, requirements, activities, artistic style, and sound effects. 

Free Realms does cater children, but also to families. There are many different game activities for players to do. Players can race, players can fight monsters, do spatial reasoning games, or destroy other cars in a destruction derby. However, all of these activities take place in another environment, and after the players are done with that activity, they are sent back into the Free Realm World. There are some games that occur in the immediate environment such as collection games. However, a majority of the time the players are on the race track or in a battleground after they accept a quest. Free Realms entertains players by providing various game-play activities for players to do. Players in Free Realms have jobs, and these jobs correspond to the different game-play activities. If players get bored with one job and the game-play activities, they can always do another job and then go back. Free Realms focuses on variety. DDO on the other hand, focuses on battle. 

DDO is very different, while many of quests take place in another environment such as dungeon or a warehouse, the activities all center around battle. Players are constantly trying to attain better equipment to help in their quests. There are no racing games or cooking mini-games here, the emphasis of DDO is really on battle. Destruction games, chasing and evading, are core game-play mechanics in DDO. The environment is very similar to the Lord of the Rings environment. No guns or cars here, just bow and arrows, magic, elves, and dwarves. The sound effects, especially the narrator in the background, is there to really immerse the players in epic quests. With its simularities to other Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) and the fact that it is free to play, the DDO game-designers are really catering to players who are fans of the old pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons game, and players who want a cheaper alternative to the other MMORPGs out there. 

The chat tools in Free Realms and DDO bring up another interesting difference. It seems the Free Realm creators adhere to the "when in doubt, leave it out," philosophy when it comes to chat. Since the target market is to little children and they want more children to play the game and not be logged off by concerned parents due to bad language, all swear words and borderline sexually-implicit language is cut out of the game. However, this system is not perfect. For example, when we were trying to discuss a place to take the group photo, one of our members tried to suggest doing it under the arch. Unfortunately, under was censored. I then tried to type in the digit 8 and that character was censored as well. This chat quirk and the cartoonish, colorful environment really caters to little kids who want to play games, and parents who don't want to pay fifty or sixty dollars for their children to play games. DDO has no censor function, and is really designed for more experienced/older gamers who have played either World of Warcraft (WoW) or other Massive Multiplayer RPG's.  

The game experience is very different. DDO is very focused on creating an environment the player can become immersed in as they battle through waves of monsters in their effort to become a powerful hero. Free Realms is more focused on variety and family-friendly elements. Variety helps the game remain entertaining and the family friendly environment really opens the game up to a market that other MMORPGs haven't addressed. Parents are concerned about what their kids are playing, but I doubt many of them are concerned about their children when they play Free Realms.  


Game Design Paper

Ray Wang

New Immersion Proposal: The Three Kingdoms

Action role-playing games (RPG) have been around for a long time. However a new kind of action RPG, the immersive RPG, is becoming more popular. With the power of computers now, game designers can create virtual worlds that almost mirror real-life environments.

Game Design cont...Collapse )

Study of Game Mechanics
Before the exercise on Tuesday, I was skeptical that games I had played in the past such as Guess Who, Oblivion, and Red Rover would have many different game mechanics. I was surprised to realize that these games actually had more than just one or two game mechanics within them. For example, the outdoor game Red Rover seemed to just have the destruction game element. You need to break through the opposing team's wall in order to go back to your team. After analyzing the game through the exercise though, I realized that out of the game mechanics we studied such as survival, destruction, prediction, race to the end, Red Rover actually had more than just the one destruction mechanic. Red Rover also had an acquisition element since one team would try and collect the opposing team members to add to their wall. The outdoor game also had prediction. A good team would try and predict who wouldn't break through the wall, and the player who was called over, would try and predict where the weak point in the wall and run through it.

If there is one new game mechanic that game designers are starting to incorporate into their games that Braithwaite doesn't really discuss in great detail, it is the human choice and consequences element. This kind of spatial reasoning is unique in that the player doesn't necessarily make the game harder to win, but rather has an effect on his or her playing experience. Games such as Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect use this element very effectively. Here is a link to a video showing you the different endings in Knights of the Old Republic. At this point, games only look at good vs. evil, but in the future I feel as though games will begin to look at choices as more than just good or bad. For example, at the climax of Mass Effect, you have to make the choice of saving one character. There is no right or wrong decision in this case. I feel as though role-playing games and action adventure games will start to analyze this game mechanic further. This game mechanic really creates an interactive movie which the player influences. There are obvious some issues with how many choices you really have in this type of games, but I feel like this game mechanic can really immerse a player in the characters and in the game. 

Wii Control Revolution
Here is one common instance when playing a video game. Say you come up to a monster. It sees you, turns around, and tries to attack you. How do you kill it?

By left-clicking it to death or, if playing with a controller, mashing X button until it is dead.

If there is one thing that games can work on,it is immersiveness with gameplay. There is nothing that takes me out of gameworld more than getting a sore hand and wrist from mashing buttons or left-clicking too much. This is why the Wii is so innovative when it comes to gameplay. While video games have certainly worked on better immersing players in gameworld through making them feel contact or allow them to utilize a gun accessory or steering wheel, the wii is slightly different.

One of the early examples of Wii gameplay innovation is Wii boxing. As you can see from the video below, the game is able to track the players movement as he or she dodges left or right, notes which hand simulated a punching motion, and whether or not the player made contact with their opponent. Now this is unique because in other boxing games that do not utilize the WII controls, the player would have to hit a button to dodge or hit.

Even more innovative is the Wii Fit as shown here. The Wii Fit incorporates a weight pad which detects where your weight is and can also detect where your body is on the pad, making a person's whole body play and not just their hands.

There are certainly more accessories for the Wii. There are gun zappers, steering wheels, drum sets. A lot of games have utilized at least one of these accessories with gameplay. While some of the accessories have been utilized in other systems, such as the light gun in Time Crisis, there are other much more innovative accessories in the works, such as the Wii horseback saddle. However,in my opinon, gameplay innovation probably will not come from the creation of another accessory. Real innovation will come from incorporating a couple of these different controls into one game.

Action games in particular would benefit from incorporating the Wii pad and the motion sensors of the Wii remote. Imagine a action game in first person, you see an enemy running towards you with a sword. He takes a wild swing. You take a step backward and then retaliate by slashing the enemy with your sword in the form the the Wii remote. Allowing a person to physically perform actions such as attacking or blocking rather than pressing a button or commanding a character to perform an action is the next step in video game game play. I envision a first person RPG where players take on a first person perspective and perform all actions through simulation of an action rather than the pressing of a button.

Gaming resources
So I'm looking at gaming resources this time and trying to find out the objective of these gaming websites and how they may help us promote transnational play. I have used a lot of these resources before (Escapist, Gamasutra, Kotaku, Gamespot) but there are others which I have heard about have not visited (Penny Arcade), so I went to these sites to see what topics they covered and who visited these sites. 

Many of the sites focused on the gaming consumer. Kotaku in particular posed a question to gaming consumers on whether or not games today should be region locked. The great majority of visitors said no, with a couple even saying that since the question was obviously posed on a website for consumers, the answer would obviously be a resounding no. It was quite easy actually to search through all the sites for certain games and information. Whether I visited the Escapist, Kotaku, Gamusutra, all of them had a convenient search tool at the top of a page which allowed me to enter in any search word and look up any and all articles relating to the search term I entered. It took me only a few seconds to find that discussion topic in Kotaku about region locking.

As far as topics that are covered or addressed in each website, there are actually a lot of different areas each website covers. Kotaku and Gamasutra focus more on user's take on gameplay mechanics, game design and gaming news. Kotaku and Gamusutra focus more on gaming culture than on informing game consumers whether or not they should buy a certain game. Gamespot and IGN.com actually cover this area. Any and all games that come out are reviewed on this site and many users visit these sites to figure out whether or not they want to purchase a newly released game. While the four sites above specifically cover either game reviews or game or gaming culture, The Escapist actually does a little of both. It has game reviews, but it also covers gaming culture as well. One writer actually discusses the issue of transnational play and region locking. There are certainly plenty of gaming resources for people to visit, but not all of them focus on the same gaming areas as I initially imagined. 

As far as covering the two games we will be playing in class, Free Realms and Dungeons and Dragons Online, there are a couple entries on sites regarding these two games. Most note the great growth of Free Realms since it was first released. Many of the resources on Dungeons and Dragons online discuss the recent delay to September and the Free-to-play system that Dungeons and Dragons will run under. I found a couple sources that covered the growth of Free Realms in greater detail. IGN.com actually reviewed the game and noted that while gameplay does get repetitive if a player tries to level up in just one job (which I also realized after desperately trying to level up to a level 10 ninja), the gameplay of Free Realms actually has a lot of variety. Penny Arcade actually describes the Free Realms quite accurately.

As noted above, there is a lot of discussion over gaming becoming increasingly popular globally, while I got very few hits on the term transnational play, I did find note that many people were arguing over this issue of region locking. However, much of the discussion was pretty one-sided due to the fact that the main visitors to these websites were gaming consumers. Obviously, gaming consumers have no reason to support the idea of region locking especially if they import a game from another country and realize they cannot play the game due to region locking. This website outlines the arguments regarding region lockout. I tend to side with the gaming consumers on this one, especially considering some solutions consumers have come up with to this region lockout issue. As wikipedia outlines, there are firmwares and hacks that consumers can use to mod their system to play these games. While abroad in China, I actually spoke with a local gamer. He said since games were so expensive in China, many just modified their systems so that they could play illegal bootlegs which were far cheaper than actually buying a region-based game. I feel the industry stands to lose a lot more if they continue to region lock their games. Obviously the business side of video games makes this issue much more complex, but it is an issue game developers should consider as games become much more popular globally. 

Here is another resource on the issues of region lockout

Finally, one other issue to look out for is advertising. While the Escapist, Kotaku, and Gamasutra, do not really have prominent ads on their websites, the much more "corporate" sites such as Gamespot and IGN.com do. Gamespot in particular ran into trouble with very prominent ads for a game called Kane and Lynch. The problem wasn't with the ad's themselves, but the game review that followed this advertising. Basically, the reviewer and chief editor at the time, Jeff Gerstmann, heavily criticized the game and was fired shortly afterward. There is no proof that he was fired for this negative review but many still wonder why he was terminated soon after reviewing the game. This incident poses an interesting question about the fine line between making a popular game and making a game that pushes our minds as far as conceptualizing gameplay: Are game developers free to be creative or are we going to end up with games that all use similar gameplay mechanics? Interesting question to ponder especially since video games are becoming more and more popular worldwide. Just check out the recent gaming convention in Seattle

One thing I would keep in mind about the resources is that while all of these sites have discussion forums, I would focus on the forums that initiate discussion among its many visitors such as Kotaku or the Escapist. From what I've seen, there are plenty of gamers out there, and many of them have an opinion. I believe there are a couple global gamers on these sites as well. I feel promoting transnational play first goes through the consumers. They play the games, they buy the games. The best thing to do is to utilize the discussion boards on these sites. 

1st blog: About Me

Hello all once again in the blogosphere. I'm Ray, a senior communication major at Trinity University. I am the station manager for TigerTV and the Executive Producer for Newswave. My interests include but are not limited to video editing, surfing youtube, and trying to keep up to date with current events. While I spend a lot of time editing and watching films, I also spend a fair amount of time gaming.

I've been playing video games since I was ten years old. I know I already mentioned God of War as one of my favorite games. While I do enjoy playing video games, I have mostly played story-driven one player games such as Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Metal Gear Solid. I would encourage everyone to check out Metal Gear Solid, not necessarily because it is always a fun and engaging game, but because it really has a different feel, very similar to an interactive film. I've always had an interest in games that push the game genre in new, interesting ways.

However, I have not had much experience playing MMORPGS (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) the most experience I've had is watching my sister play WoW on my computer....and then being kept awake by the constant online chatter between her and her teammates on their various quests. I've stayed away from playing MMORPGS, but look forward to finally immersing myself in an online gaming environment and seeing what all the fuss is about.


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