Monday, February 25, 2008

Maybe Totilo Was Right...

Portal: A Mean Storytelling Machine

When MTV Multiplayer blog's Steven Totilo made a request to CAPCOM to cut gameplay of Okami when porting it to Wii, pretty much everyone disputed that notion of edit. People don't like "Director's Cut" version of movies, and people don't want to lose even one sec of their precious playtime.

And guess what? Arguable the year 2007's most influential game, Portal was able to deliver such compact, condensed experience with atomic punch of mindshifting story by, none other than, editing. Yes, "the secret," the article writes, "to crafting Portal's perfect blend of gameplay and story, ... was to cut, cut, and cut some more." And so the game became only about 3-hour-long game, and became such a charm. (You may think they may have removed dull moments and features only, but they actually have cut a whole NPC who they initially had players encounter on the course of the game.)

Are we seeing the birth of a new career as Gameplay Editor?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Next Big Work of Art is Coming! (Get Ready!)

Production I.G.'s Sky Crawlers Page

Are you ready to be exhilarated? World's reknown, and the favorite film director of mine, Mamoru Oshii (creator of Ghost in the Shell, Innocence, among others), is about to present a brand new animated film, The Sky Crawlers, based on Mori Hiroshi's popular novel of same title about Kildren, children of future who are inflicted with eternal adolescence, haunted by war created by adults.

This film is to be the next full-featured animation work by Oshii, after highly-praised Innocence. Upon finishing the novel, Oshii praised the book regarding it as...

"a work that should be made into a movie for young people now. ... It is time to face this new perception to our existence through the Kildren, who live indefinitely in eternal adolescence, and this theme should be dealt with now."
Upon the news, the author gave his consent on the spot.

Are you excited? I certainly am! It'll be releasd in this summer! Not sure how long it'll take to come to the state side, but I sure will watch it soon after the release, watch it when it's released here, and get a DVD (or Blu-Ray, since I prolly own a Blu-Ray player by then. Hopefully.)!

Oh, joy!

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Great Expectation

Listening to last week's(2/15/2008) 1UP Yours podcast, N'Gai of Newsweek's Level Up claims he does not expect, nor should anyone, a game to tell a good story, at least to the level of novels. He makes an anology of film's cinematography to game's gameplay; as images in motion is the key feature of films, gameplay is the key to games, not stories. PuzzleQuest's heart was the puzzle itself, not the quest. Portal, which had a breathtaking revelation in the course of its short gameplay, would also be dismissal had it not nailed gameplay portion (which, it did with a state-of-the-art perfection). Asking for a grand epic novel from a game is like asking a painting to tell a story with same depth as a novel; that is like wishing as much sour taste from an apple as from an orange.

Although many of gamers may be compelled to object to this view, especially if you're a fan of most of JRPGs, Call of Duty, Half-Life, or any other major franchise out there, however, I am agreeing with N'Gai's view with my complete heart. As I've said in a previous post, we have to realize today's games that we so much love are in fact a meshup of various media; it's a mix of music, movies, books, games, dolls, and so on. This is like someone who wants sour taste added to apple creating a apple-orange smoothie.

However, I do think, or better yet, know that games can tell stories, or more like messages. Take widely acclaimed Passage for example. In its short 5-minute gameplay, it manages to trigger players to think about life and death, in very interesting way. (If you haven't tried this game, it's a must. Go try now.) Portal, too, delievered very compelling experience with its narrative.

I must say, gameplay as means of delivering messages is very hard. And game as a medium being still in an infant stage, it does borrow advantages of other media to help make itself sexier and more fun. But it's nice to know that more people are thinking about this issue, and are slowly driving the medium forward. Hope we see more Portal in future, not another Lost Odyssey.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Today's Game Is Art! No, It's Not!

GameSetWatch - "Electronic Arts' Preston: Forget Art, Let's Game!"

With EA's recent push to become a benevolent overlord of game business, Jim Preston, a producer at EA, wrote up a short essay refuting many of other media's critics' claim that games are not art. His argument: "art" is many a time largely influenced by setting as to how a work is presented to people. He says if a urinal could be presented as an art by putting it in a museum, games can, too, given we build a right presentation in which they will be considered "art".

But is it only me who thinks that he is overlooking something that is the foundation of anything artistic, messages? It is my understanding that art, in its simplist form, can be said as a communication between those who make it and those who receives it. So, even if we do create a way to recognize games as artistic works, as Jim suggests, nobody will really recognize them as artistic unless they send messages to their audience, the players.

And to be honest, I have almost never seen, heard, or recognized any message in most games, if not all. (Possible exception may be Portal.) Many of whom hearts games argue there are plenty of artistic games, and Metal Gear Solid is their #1 example. I don't disagree that that game is surely a masterpiece, but of what? Sure it does include very twisted and jaw-dropping message, yet, where does that message come from? Well, it's none other than its numerous cutscene sequences, with one exception where player had to pull trigger to finish the job. So the message is not being delivered from the game portion, the interactive part*, but rather from linear, pre-recorded portion, which is by itself a movie, not game. There are tons of other examples, and, what do you know? They are all delivered by anything other than game. (Which is why I get so frustrated when delivery of the real message is hindered by long and repetitive gameplay--I'm looking at you, Final Fantasy XII.)

So, that's the essence of my argument why I don't accept today's games as art in its, game's, purest form. It may be artistic as congloremate of numerous medium, but not as "game". And there surely is a difference...

Well, that isn't to say I don't enjoy today's games. I surely do. I just want the day people realize the true potential of game to come fast. (But then again, game and narratives really doesn't go along--they're in inverse relationship. We may have to distinguish "game" apart from "interactive movie" to start seeing artistic interactive movies, which I think is what we all really want. Am I not right?)

*Here I define "interactive part" as where player's take actions pursuing objectives, which is the heart of any game.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Guys Are Better With Balls

Story Link

Why do more guys get attracted and addicted to games than gals do? I'm not looking for market's characteristics, such as there are more male developers crafting what they want to play. Well, that maybe one reasno, but this story linked here tries to answer that question in physiological terms by by having participants play a simple "game" on a PC, and reading in their neural activity during the gameplay. What they found: males are naturally inclined to have more of rewarding sensation from playing games than females do. Simply put, they are more motivated than girls are.

Simple enough, you say? Well, although this is the first time researchers used a video game to do this kind of study (that I've heard of, at least), but this only confirms what we already know if we're the least bit observant; there are tons more guys playing, and watching, sports than girls. "Duh! How obvious and how unrelated this is to the topic at hand?" you say? That's because you fail to see that games and sports are practically the same thing (More on this later, as it deserves its own post).

If we were to see more girls playing "games", then we need to create more games that are more different, something that stimulates different kind of rewarding sensation than reaching a goal.

PS. If you're still confused with the title... read the story.

From Pen to Photo

Story Link

If you've studied art, you know ball-point pen is a big no-no for any artwork. It's thick, nasty, hard to control... But it still holds its place in our lives as one of the most common object to be found around us. But oh, how high this plain tool can go..! What am I talking about? If you thought the picture above is a photo, that's what I'm talking about. Click the image, and view it at higher res. You'll see the details that photo don't make usually.

Yes... it's actually a drawing. Not just a drawing tho, it's drawn(or painted?) with humble ball-point pen!! Check this story out about him! It's amazing, although this is another of those most-things-look-better-from-afar cases, but still, amazing indeed.

Sigh, there are so many people with talent, no?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Ending: Final Fantasy XII!!

So, I just saw the ending of Final Fantasy XII, after staggering 80(!!) hours of play. And the feeling after finishing lengthy and exhausting game is... an unstoppable rage against SquareEnix and a vow to never be excited about their game again.* They simply didn't get the heart of RPG right; the story simply was mind-numbing. (When the boss was dead and the epilogue was playing, I was like "WTF" with mouth open, looking like a dum-dum.)

Damn it. This certainly isn't the feeling I was looking forward to. I was expecting a great sense of accomplishment that's gonna let me have a good night's sleep! Now all I'm gonna get is a sleep deprieved, desperate night.

#%#$@ Square!