A Great Experience

•December 9, 2013 • Leave a Comment

When I first signed up for this course, I was just expecting a standard Vanderbilt English course.  You know, the kind of course where your teacher assigns several books or excerpts that relate in some way to the topic you are covering in class, there’s a discussion/lecture during class about the topic, and then a few essays during the year to make sure you’re understanding the material.  I also expected the class to focus mostly upon film, since mediums such as video games and other digital forms are still not very accepted academically.  However, when I saw the syllabus for the first time, like 40 minutes before the first class, I was pleasantly surprised.

My first thought was “Oh wow, this class actually has a focus upon games!” My second thought was, “Wait, this sounds suspiciously similar to that Coursera course I was looking at a few months ago…”  Unsurprisingly, I found out that it was in fact taught by the same professor as that Coursera course and was basically an expanded version of it.  However, I still had my doubts about the class, for the reasons described above.  Then on the first day of class I found out that two vital parts of the class would be playing and examining the game “Lord of the Rings: Online” and then examining how it was remediated with the original Lord of the Rings and also designing a game module for NeverWinter Nights 2 based off “The Faerie Queene.”  So then the class started and I fell in love with the class and all of my doubts were proven to be utterly and completely wrong.

However, I do have to say, the most fulfilling part of this class would have to be the Neverwinter Nights 2 project at the end.  I have dabbled around in making little games in the past, mostly using the program RPG Maker XP.  Yet, I’d never made anything quite on the scale of what the Neverwinter Nights project was.  It was the first “game” I’d helped to make that had ever even been partially a complete project.  But it was really quite a culmination of the class, and it really showed that the class had taught many useful skills.  And no matter how cheesy this sounds, the most important one is that you can accomplish anything if you work at it.  And also Google solves most of your problems

- N. Edwards

Gone Home

•December 9, 2013 • 1 Comment

Earlier in class we had to play a game called “Gone Home.”  And it’s a bit of an interesting beast I would like to reflect more upon.  Once again, this is an independent game (I know, I have a bit of an obsession with them, but they always seem to turn out so amazing).  It’s developed by the Fullbright Company.  I would suggest that you play it before you read this blog post.  Seriously, it’s a beautiful, amazing game that deserves praise, and its developers deserve the money for creating this work of art.

SPOILERS BEGIN NOW

The game is a love story.  Simple as that.  It presents itself as a horror story at the beginning.  A hastily scrawled note on the door warning you not to search for your sister, a stormy night, and hints that the house might be haunted by a crazy and/or vengeful ghost.  Lights flicker, televisions are mysteriously turned on, and an intense loneliness permeates every single fiber of your being.  Yet, following your gaming instincts, you examine the first note you can interact with, and a soothing voice-over, that of your little sister, begins to calm you.  You continue to explore the house, following the plot-hook of what happened to your sister, in the hopes that perhaps this story will have a happy ending despite all of your senses yelling at you that “No, this does not have a happy ending!” And how could it?  You find hints that your family has fallen apart.  Your mom appears to be cheating on your father, their marriage seems to be falling apart, your sister is left alone and struggling with her burgeoning attraction to a girl in an age where that was even less accepted than it is today.  You are forced to assume that the worst possible action has occurred in that attic with the “keep out” sign and ominous red lights.  And yet it hasn’t.  Your mom never actually cheated, your parents went on a couple’s retreat to try and repair the divide between them, and your sister ran away with her girlfriend, hopefully finding some form of happy ending.

So what makes this game so great?  I know in my earlier blog post, I argued that gameplay and narrative should intertwine, yet how does it in this game?  This game is literally walking around a house and looking at notes.  Most people would argue that this doesn’t even constitute a game, let alone a great one.  And yet, it manages what most games never can.  It manages to make the player feel like they are living the story.  It allows the player to fully immerse themselves in the protagonist’s life.  You worry about the family as if they were your own, you root for them to overcome their demons, you explore the house hoping to find clues, you feel joy and apprehension when you discover the sister has run away to chase her happiness.  It uses the medium of video games to accomplish something that no other medium can.  No other medium can create the form of immersion that this particular story needs, and that is why video games need to be classified as an art form-  because of games like this; games that use their powers and limitations to do things that no other medium – literature, painting, film- cannot; games that make you feel and think and cry and reflect and hope.

~N. Edwards

Little Inferno, A Fiery Reflection

•December 9, 2013 • Leave a Comment

So, in class we had to do a report over a video.  We were supposed to play the game and analyze it and so on.  I was originally assigned Modern Warfare 2, a first-person shooter game that has done much to categorize an entire genre, and also has some very analysis-worthy moments (The airport section, I’m looking at you).  However, there was a distinct lack of Independent Games, which I felt was a great injustice to what is kind of my favorite group of games to talk about.   For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to assume any readers of this blog will know what an independent game is, or can at least utilize the magical search engine known only as “Google” for finding out.

                So, anyway, I decided to do my report over a wonderful game I had recently acquired. A little gem called “Little Inferno.”  To summarize the game quickly, it’s basically a virtual fireplace simulator.  Yes, a virtual fireplace simulator.  But that description does not do it justice.   Instead, it’s a far more varied piece of work; a piece of art I would even hazard to say. It deals with so many complex themes and ideas in a way that is both entertaining and informative and I just think that is great for a video game to be able to do.  In my presentation, my main argument was that the game is in fact a remediation of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.  However, which my professor pointed out, in my overzealousness to present the game, I presented what was simply a reading of a game, as an actual fact.  Which is true.  While this game has no actual evidence that points towards its “authorial intent” being an allegory of the cave remediation, it is possible to present a very convincing reading of it being that.  However, what I want to stress in this short blog post is how some of the strongest evidence for this reading comes from the gameplay rather than the overarching narrative.  The gameplay manages to enhance the narrative, rather than being a simple backbone for the narrative to be built upon.  And I think that is how video games should function.  Gameplay and narrative should intertwine rather than one simply existing to act as a simple support structure for the other.

~N. Edwards

Faerie Queene: The Jousting Plain

•December 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The Jousting Plain: game design and remediation of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene

 

Background

The Faerie Queene: Book 3, Canto 1, Sections 4-12

In the beginning of the Faerie Queene Book 3, Sir Guyon and Prince Arthur are journeying together and come across an open plain, upon which they encounter Britomart. “At last as through an open plaine they yode,/They spide a knight, that towards pricked faire,” (Book 3, Canto 1, Stanza 4). Sir Guyon immediately squares off against her, prompting a joust where Sir Guyon is defeated. His companions make excuses for his loss by blaming (in the poem) the horse and Sir Guyon’s equipment. Sir Guyon’s pride is satisfied, and the group is reconciled to Britomart, joining her to continue into the forest.

Overview / Location

To the North of the Classroom is the first area of the game: the Jousting Plain. A open, grassy area, the Jousting Plain is limited by hills and trees in order to keep the player moving forward in his/her quest. The area serves to introduce the player to basic fighting and interaction with other characters as they move along the path in order to continue the narrative. In this section, the player acts as the character Sir Guyon, entering along with several companions as they journey. The area is designed as a mostly open, bright area, set along a path where the player interacts with the Palmer, a knight, Prince Arthur, and Britomart.

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NPCs

  • The Palmer-plain man who introduces the player to the area.
  • A Knight-unspecified initial character to introduce combat
  • Prince Arthur-In knight’s garb; Sir Guyon’s companion, acts as a narrator in the scenes.
  • Britomart-A woman who has taken on the guise of a knight.

Quests

  • An initial joust (battle) to set up game mechanics
  • Joust with Britomart

Narrative

http://youtu.be/ndwTs8Mujnk

Upon entering the Jousting Plain, the player finds the first NPC next to them, the Palmer. The Palmer, in the poem, is a companion of Sir Guyon. In medieval tradition, a palmer was a person who had completed a journey to Jerusalem as a religious quest. In this scenario, the Palmer serves to introduce the player to the jousting area and challenges him/her to take on an initial joust, telling the player,

“Greetings, Sir Guyon, I’m here to tell you that you have been challenged to a joust!”

“A joust you say?”

“A joust indeed! This may be a chance to hone your skills. You never know when you will need to joust unexpectedly.”

The player has an option to pick either, “Yes, bring him forth,” or “No, I need no practice.” If the player chooses the former, another NPC, a knight, appears and attacks the player, giving them a chance to determine the rules of fighting and using commands.

After defeating the NPC, the player continues forward in the Jousting Plain. Prince Arthur, the companion of Sir Guyon, is in armor and is designed to introduce the player to the next fight against Britomart, saying “Sir, I spotted a knight with a strange spear some time ago. I would move with caution.”

http://youtu.be/72cYKKTv8SE

Once the player moves on, Britomart approaches and interacts (had the programming work, this would have resulted in a fight that the player cannot win.)

“Have at thee!”

“Let us fight!”

Sir Guyon’s response to his inability to defeat Britomart is, “I am dishonoured, I would rather die than be defeated.”

Prince Arthur tells the player, “Do not be ashamed, Sir. The knight’s spear is enchanted, and your equipment is at fault. Do not tempt fortune by fighting this knight.”

The player chooses to surrender with, “Very well, I am pacified.” The player interacts with Britomart and learns who she is, “I am Britomart of Britain, on a quest to find my lover. I will join you in your journey.” The player can then move on to the next section in the game.

 

Logan Wilke, Matt Eller, Jesse Huang

Game Design Britomart’s Bedroom: Faerie Queen, Book 3, Canto 1, Stanzas 60-66

•December 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Britomart’s Bedroom Scene Game Design Remediation:

Overview:

Our character goes into the Castle Joyeous and then see’s the Redcrosse Knight and the 6 Malecasta Knights guarding Britomart’s bedroom. Our PC then hears a scream from inside of Britomart’s Bedroom. Our PC and the Knights run into Britomart’s Bedroom where they find Britomart welding sword with her smock on and Malecasta on the ground wounded. Our PC and the Redcross Knight run to Britomart and the Knights run to Malecasta.

After conversation with Britomart, the six Knights attack our PC, Britomart, and Redcrosse Knight. During the fight Malecasta is no where to be found. Our PC and Redcrosse Knight talk about where Malecasta went. PC asks Britomart and she tells the PC about her secret entrance to her room. Britomart, Malecasta, and PC go through the secret entrance and find Malecasta in Malecasta’s Bedroom where upon entrance she attacks the PC. The PC wins and completes the Mini Quest.

Dialogue:

Britomart’s Bedroom Entrance:

PC: “What is this room that you are guarding?”

Redcrosse Knight: I am guarding Faire Britomart’s Bed Chamber making sure these “Knights” don’t try anything.

PC: Why would they?

Redcrosse Knight: They are Malecasta’s knights you can’t trust them.

Malecasta screams (Sound Effect)

PC: What was that?

Redcrosse Knight: I don’t know. Let’s go!

 ImageImageImage

Inside Britomart’s Bedroom:

PC: What happened in here?

Britomart: I was sleeping soundly when I heard someone in my room! It was Malecasta and I quickly welded my sword and took care of her.

PC: Oh dear! Are you ok?

Britomart: Of course, I am! But it looks like you and Redcrosse might not be.

 Image

Fight with 6 Knights of Malecasta (Britomart and Redcrosse help)

*After success*

Redcrosse: Well we handled them but where did Malecasta go off to?

PC: I don’t know. Seems like she ran away but no one went through the door we came in.

Redcrosse: I don’t know ask Britomart

Britomart: She must have gained access to my secret passage door.

Go through Secret Door, Down the Hall to Malecasta’s Bed Chamber,

Malecasta Attacks, She is defeated. If not the player can respawn and try again.

ImageImage

NPCs:

Redcrosse Knight

Britomart

Malecasta

Malecasta’s Six Knights

Quests:

Main Quest- Enter Britomart’s Bedroom/Defeat Malecasta’s Knights:

  • Obtain access to Britomart’s Bedroom
  • Defeat Malecasta’s Knights inside of Britomart’s Bedroom

Objective- Defeat Malecasta’s Knights

 Rewards:

  • Experience Points
  • Collect Loot
  • Access to Britomart’s Secret Passage

 Side Quest- Find Malecasta:

  • Obtain access to Secret Passage Door in Britomart’s Bedroom through conversation with Britomart
  • Go to Malecasta’s Bedroom

 Objective- Defeat Malecasta after finding her in her bedroom

Rewards:

  • Experience Points

Youtube Video of NWN2 Britomart Bedroom Game Module:

 

Amanda T., Nathanial E., and Emily G.

Entrance Hall

•December 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Background: Castle Joyeous Entrance Hall

Matt Reynolds and Jeremy Bolin

Book 3, Canto 1, Lines 31-34, 40, 52

Entering Castle Joyeous, the PC finds him/herself in the grand entrance hall. Long and vast, the hall leads the PC to the dining hall and library of Castle Joyeous, as well as to Britomart’s bedchamber.

As the PC works their way through the endless entrance hall, they are exposed to the ornate extravagance of Castle Joyeous’ interior design. Lined with pillars and posts embossed in gold, the hall is also filled with an abundance of royal riches. Handcrafted woodwork and furniture can be seen throughout the hall, filling the room with the scent of rich mahogany (trust me, it’s there). There is a particular seating area containing several luxurious chairs, and various artwork and decor can be found in the entrance hall along with beautiful chandeliers. Armor and weapon racks are also located in the hall, as well as a bar/liquor cabinet area for people to let loose and be merry. There is actually such wealth in Castle Joyeous that there are plies of gold just laying around on a fine rug in the entrance hall as well, though it is guarded my multiple knights.

Several NPC knights and faire ladies of various shapes and sizes can be found in the hall. They are seen marveling at the opulence of the great hall, and some of them express their astonishment via dialogue with the PC.

The entrance hall also houses many fine tapestries from medieval France, and a series of these tapestries embody the several stages of Venus’ story. A woman staring at these tapestries can be interacted with as she briefly explains what they are illustrating. The first tapestry displays Venus in her search for her lost son, Cupid, the god of love, as city by city she inquires about him only to find that she has just missed him. The second tapestry then illustrates Venus encountering Diana and Phoebe, as Phoebe angrily tells Venus that if she finds Cupid first, she will clip his wings. The next tapestry depicts Venus and Adonis enjoying each other’s company in the beautiful garden filled with flowers and extensive growth. The following tapestry depicts the scene in which Venus cares for Adonis who has been wounded by a wild boar. The PC may actually enter this scene through the tapestry as another zone in the game. The final tapestry portrays Venus as a grandmother, advising Psyche on how to properly care for and raise her daughter.

 NPCs:

-Many different but rather insignificant knights

-Various faire ladies 

 Dialogue:

 (Lady staring at the first of the 5 Venus tapestries)

NPC Faire Lady: “These tapestries were made in Toure. Marvelous, no?”

PC: “Most certainly. What are they of?”

NPC Faire Lady: “Well, this first one depicts the goddess of beauty and love, Venus, as she searches for her missing son. The other four also show Venus in the events following this first one.”

(Knight at entrance door)

NPC Knight: “My, what riches fill these halls!”

PC: “Only the finest adornments and furnishings can be found in Castle Joyeous.”

NPC Knight: “Yes, what an extravagant place this is.”

Venus & Adonis Tapestry

•December 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Background: Venus and Adonis Tapestry

Canto III, Stanza 34-38

The player is transported into a lush forest with a small clearing. Enclosed by the thick tree line, the clearing centers around a large stone fountain. You hear faint sounds of birds chirping, water splashing and leaves rustling.  The player can see two figures in the distance to the right of the fountain. Upon approaching, the figures become more distinct.  The player makes out a fair skinned, god-like woman, dressed in black, kneeling over a wounded, blonde haired man dressed in armour. He seems wounded and she weeps over his body. This is quite the peculiar sight since there is no one else around, so the player approaches them.

When the player inquires what has happened, the woman, Venus, tells the player that a boar attacked Adonis and he is quickly dying. He had a habit for chasing animals that were too big to fight. The player is faced with the choice to help the wounded Adonis or to be on his way. If the player chooses to help, he or she is instructed to fetch water from the fountain in the center of the clearing. The player must collect water from the fountain and bring it back to Venus.

However, the water was not enough and Adonis dies. Venus kneels down over the body and begins to sob.  Her mourning is disturbed by rustling in the bushes. Startled, she looks to the left and yells “Oh no! The boar is back! Kill it and avenge Adonis’ death!!” The screen then shifts to the tree line to reveal an angry boar.  The boar then charges towards them and the player must kill him in order to protect Venus and himself. After a gory battle, the player is victorious. Venus rewards the player with armour as a symbol of her gratitude, and continues to mourn Adonis in peace.

NPCs involved

Venus

Godly figure with beautiful fair skin and long blonde hair.  Dressed in black she is kneeling over her gravely wounded lover, Adonis.

Adonis

Venus’ lover who is fair skinned, dressed in Armor, with short blonde hair.  He is laying on the ground bleeding, near death. Venus is kneeling over him.

Boar

A large and strong Boar that charges the player from behind the tree line when Adonis dies. If killed, rewards the player with experience points.

Quests and Dialogue:

1) Revive Adonis:

  • Player clicks on Venus to discover that Adonis is wounded: “Help, Adonis is dying! The boar attacked him!! I told him it was dangerous, but he didn’t listen”

    • If player chooses to help (“Oh no! How can I help!?”), they are instructed to fetch water

      • “Fetch water from the fountain! Quick!” -Venus

        • Run to the fountain, locate and fill the pitcher

      • Bring the water to Venus

      • Continue on to quest 2

    • If player chooses not to help, they are transported back into Castle Joyous (“I’m sorry I cannot be of greater help, I must be on my way”)

2) Avenge Adonis:

  • As Adonis dies, the boar reappears

  • Venus instructs the player to kill the boar in order to save both of their lives

    • “Oh no! The boar is back! Kill it and avenge Adonis’ death!!” -Venus

    • “Don’t worry! I’ll save us!” Fight and kill the boar

      • “You did it! Thank you for saving my life, now I can mourn the death of Adonis in peace. Please take this armor to represent my gratitude.” -Venus

      • “Glad I could help, I must be on my way now”- Player

      • Reward: Venus presents player with armor

    • If the boar kills you, choose to respawn and continue fighting or respawn to designated zone

-Emily Blake, Shao-Yu Chen, and Molly Steckler

 
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