Papers, Please: A serendipitous experience for a graduate abroad

2013 has been a very robust and interesting year for the indie game community. From the existentially hilarious walkathon of The Stanley Parable to the far-too-realistic nightvision jump-scarefest of Outlast (aka I swear I’ll play it…tomorrow), the indie market continues to prove itself a diverse and entertaining stomping ground. One particular game from the indie releases of yesteryear has caught quite a bit of attention, and with a well-timed Steam Winter Sale I was lucky enough to come across it myself and pick it up. The game I speak of is Papers, Please.

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WoW’s Next Big Expansion

I originally started playing World of Warcraft back in late 2006, a few months before the release of the game’s first expansion. From when I started and playing and to when I thought I was done with the game, I always felt that it was one of the best online experiences a gamer could have. I admit that I didn’t play the game nearly as much as I used to during the game’s latest two expansions, but I have a feeling that could change with my excitement for the latest expansion. In light of the recent announcement, I thought I’d touch on a few highlights.

Last week at Blizzard’s yearly convention, Blizzcon, the next World of Warcraft expansion was unveiled – the fifth in the game’s history. Warlords of Draenor brings players back to continent of Draenor, or Outland as its currently known, which was originally visited during the game’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade. Unlike previous expansions, Warlords of Draenor takes place in the past on a different timeline to what’s currently happening in the world.

Story wise, former Horde Warchief, Garrosh Hellscream, has escaped imprisonment with the help of a new friend who can bend time. With his help, Garrosh goes back in time to enlist the old Horde into his new Iron Horde before they have the chance to succumb to the will of the Burning Legion. With his new Iron Horde, Garrosh intends to conquer the present world of Azeroth. However, both the Alliance and Horde follow him back through time to put a stop to his plans.

The expansion is set to add plenty of new content upon release, although the addition of a new playable race or class appears to be absent from this expansion. In previous expansions, Blizzard has either introduced a new race of class, or both in the case of the game’s most recent expansion. However, with 13 playable races and 11 classes, it doesn’t seem like something that will be missed too much.

New continent of Draenor

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L.A. Noire: Game Analysis and Suggested Improvements

Introduction to L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire (2011) was developed over a period of seven years by the now defunct Team Bondi in conjunction with Rockstar Games. It is predominantly an action-adventure game with third-person shooter and open-world sandbox driving elements. Thematically, it draws heavily upon the neo-noir detective thriller genre.  However L.A. Noire’s emphasis on story, light gameplay and mix of various game genres is the source of its polarized reviews. The game appears to cater to the needs of traditional adventure game fans, which leaves players expecting more hardcore action-based gameplay disappointed. This analysis will observe how the strengths and weaknesses of L.A. Noire’s design hinges on whether the player belongs to either faction – as well as the aspects that shine or fail regardless of player preference.

Having shipped almost 5 million copies, L.A. Noire qualifies as a commercial success[1]. The game has also done well critically, however the difference between critic and user aggregated scores on Metacritic are of note. The 6% different between the PC and console versions can be attributed to the collapse of Team Bondi prior to the PC release, resulting in Rockstar Leeds taking over production.

  Xbox 360[2] Playstation 3[3] PC[4]
Critic 89% 89% 83%
User 77% 74% 77%

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Game Review: Disney Infinity

DI_Logo

Disney Infinity

Release Date: August 18, 2013
Developer: Avalanche Software
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Genre:
Adventure / Sandbox
Plataform: PS3 / 360 / Wii U / Wii / 3DS / Mobile / PC

Lets face it: everyone is a Disney fan! I honestly won’t believe you if you say that at one point of your life you weren’t touched by Disney’s unique way of telling stories. Whether by their characters, art, animations, parks, shows, songs or even by Mickey himself. I bet you have experienced that “magic” and, if you are a human full of emotions, you probably fell in love too.

And finally the big day arrives for all of those Disney lovers: the big release of Disney Infinity, a game that – as Disney – is everywhere. Or at least in almost all platforms. The player can find it on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo WiiU – as the main console version – or even on Nintendo 3DS, following more as a “Mario Party” gameplay style. Nintendo Wii also received the game for its platform, though with fewer features, such as the absence of a co-op experience in the Play Set part of the game. And if it wasn’t enough, players can also experience Disney Infinity on PC and iOS devices, offering the options to build, edit and share all of your toy box experiments at any time.

For the ones who still don’t know, the game allows players to share their creations on ANY PLATFORM. It doesn’t matter if you are a Nintendo player, you can easily share your Toy Box with an user that plays on PlayStation 3, for example.

WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE

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Journey: A Critical Analysis

The Player Meets the Mountain

Intro

The buzz is still deafening. “Beautiful,” “evocative,” and “transcendental” are only a few of the accolades used to describe Journey, a game released by thatgamecompany mid-March of last year.[i] Since the game’s release, Journey won five BAFTA’s and six GDC awards, broke PlayStation sales records to be the “fastest-selling PSN game ever released,” and was also nominated for a Grammy.[ii]

This much attention merits a closer inspection—What exactly is Journey? Fan responses to the game, while filled with praise, typically leave the non-player in the dark: “I have just finished Journey. I can’t even describe how or why it moved me, but it’s changed my outlook of what a game can be.”[iii] The player makes no mention of graphics or party systems, topics which would seem important to discuss when speaking of a new multiplayer game. Instead, the player expresses the emotional impact he received from playing and a changed perspective of gaming.

Traditionally, emotional experiences have been reserved for the classical arts and perspective changes towards games have occurred due to technological advances. And yet, critics are still debating whether video games can be considered art and Journey brings forth no radical technological advances. So how can a game elicit an emotion response and alter gaming perceptions without new technology? This essay will delve further into this question and explore what made Journey a commercial success as well as what elements we can look forward to thatgamecompany improving upon in the future.

What is Journey?

Journey is the third installment of a three game contract between thatgamecompany and Sony Entertainment. The first two games, Fl0w and Flower also received critical acclaim and were created by Jenova Chen for the purpose of studying flow in games. Flow, as defined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is a “state of being, one in which a task’s difficulty is perfectly balanced against a performer’s skill—resulting in a feeling of intense, focused attention” [iv]. These first two games illustrate this principle aptly.

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Why Was “Spec Ops: The Line” A Great Game But A Financial Failure?

Spec Ops: The Line poster

Spec Ops: The Line, published by 2K Games and created by Yager Development, is a recent AAA (Triple A) game, released on June 26, 2012.  It was a great game by design with a poor financial outcome. The game had a very strong narrative, told through story and gameplay, which taught players to think more critically of video games as a whole, instead of just taking them at face value.
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Game Design Readings : The Code Book

Game Design Readings Banner

Two people want to exchange a secret by mail. They do not trust the mail system, and they live too far apart to meet, how can they securely send a locked box without also mailing a key?

The answer is surprisingly straightforward. Person A mails a box secured with a padlock to person B. Person B receives the box and adds their own padlock, then mails it back to Person A. Person A takes their lock off the box and mails it back to Person B, who removes their padlock, opening the box.

I credit games with granting me many interests and hobbies. One of the strongest in particular is a love of cryptography and cryptanalysis, which was started by a game series called Ultima. The Ultima games themselves contained many of the elements that we now consider axioms of role-playing games, but which were at the time considered revolutionary: Character progression, variable party members, ethical decisions, conversation choices — things that we take for granted now were strange frontiers of gameplay for me in the summer of 1986.
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Luigi’s Mansion 2 : Interview with VFS Alumni on the Development Team

Box Art for Luigi's Mansion 2 : Dark Moon

Luigi’s Mansion 2 : Dark Moon was released March 24, 2013 and right away it took off like a rocket. It was the top selling game in Japan for three weeks in a row. We (myself, Senior Instructor Andrew Laing and Head Of Department Dave Warfield) conducted an interview with VFS Game Design graduates who helped in the creation of this very successful game.

Thanks very much to Diego Pons, Matt McTavish, Cavin Yen, and Jeffrie Wu for their time and for producing such a fun game. And thanks to Doug Tronsgard and Rob Davidson from Next Level Games (NLG) for helping to make this interview happen.

Cavin Yen, Diego Pons, Matt McTavish (behind Diego) & Jeffrie Wu
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Game Review : Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite Logo BlueSky 640

Release Date: March 26, 2013
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Genre:
 First Person Shooter
Platform: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC / Mac

When a game gets to the point where it is able to convince players to invest in a genre that they have never enjoyed in the past, it means the game did it right. I felt exactly like that when the first Bioshock was released and fell immediately in love with this incredible masterpiece of storytelling. The Bioshock series deserves all the honour and admiration it has received, again sending the player to one of the most beautiful and incredible cities ever.

Columbia — The City In The Sky

In Bioshock: Infinite the player controls Booker DeWitt, a private investigator who refers to himself as an “independent contractor.” Following a series of events and problems, which he faced in the past, he becomes involve in gambling, leaving an enormous debt to pay. To find a way to pay his debt, he is sent to Columbia — a floating city in the sky — to find a girl named Elizabeth and bring her back to New York City.

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Game Review : Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider Poster Release March 5 2013

Release Date: March 05, 2013

Developer: Crystal Dynamics / Eidos Studios – Montreal
Publisher: Square-Enix
Genre:
 Action
Platform: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / Microsoft Windows

Lara Croft has become iconic for a number of people around the world since she first appeared 17 years ago. Often we hear of a woman with a strong personality being compared with the famous Lara Croft. And at some point, some women actually started trying to achieve that. Lara is the whole package: intelligent, strong, sexy, rich and powerful; so why wouldn’t women want to be like her? And for men, she was more than strong, she also was a sex symbol, which was cultivated for generations, from the digital world until Angelina Jolie donned the famous persona. (By the way, was the blood river scene in the game supposed to be a reference to Angelina Jolie in Beowulf? LOL.)

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