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Computational Environments 1 - Expressive Game Building

Feeling confident about this module as I already have a decent amount of Unity experience. I am looking forward to applying the game design principles to my own audio-visual work. In the first week I have begun to re-examine my project Simulacra and how it could be updated with the new knowledge I am to gain, especially how I can add elements of play to it so that my music landscape can be opened up to others, rather than simply performed by me. However, since considering Rosner's notion of Critical Fabulations, I am also weary that not everybody enjoys video games the same way and as such feel that having a variety of options for exploring my interactive album/musical video game is very important.


Future Learn Course - Building Expressive Video Games


From the Future Learn course we were asked to do for this module I found the discussion of types of play very interesting:


PvP, PvE , asynchronous competition, symmetrical competition, asymmetrical competition, local multiplayer (not just limited to split screen), skills based play, chance based game, games of uncertainty (skill based with aleatoric elements), RPGs, LARPs, performative play (e.g guitar hero/rock band), expressive play (story telling, especially emotive), simulation play (understand systems and their components)


The only things I can think of that don’t fall comfortably into these definitions, that arguably deserves mention is sandbox play and the modding scene. The ability to modify, or 'mod', a game in particular gives a near infinite depth to the product. I began thinking about how this could fit into our discussions about decolonialising computing, by not building obsolescence into the software and allowing users to generate their own content it addresses the inherently capitalist nature of the games industry and permits users to generate game content that they identify with. Adding choice to accomodate as many as possible whilst also getting people involved in the creative process can only be a good thing in this regard.


I applied the above principle to a game that I have recently enjoyed; Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord.


Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord

Steam tags: Medieval, Strategy, Open World, RPG, War

Types of play: PvP, PvE, async & asym competition, skill based, ‘uncertainty’ game, RPG, sandbox, moded


The game has both single and multiplayer modes.The single player mode is a mix of a map view real time strategy mode and third or first person combat. You play as a warrior making your way in a war torn continent, raising an army as you go, able to choose to side with or against any of the warring factions in your path to power. Features uncertainty in that it is a skill and strategy based game, but that AI elements behave differently each playthrough, also featuring a dynamic economy. Of particular interest is your ability to attach yourself to a friendly NPC controlled army comprising of multiple individual player-adjacent NPCs ('nobles'), unless you are the instigator of said force, your actions off the battlefield are at the whim of the commanding officer. This creates an interesting method of delivery fast and effort free action, that contains itself within the world narrative quite neatly.


Multiplayer:

Small skirmishes all the way to large scale sieges. Featuring different class/loadouts (asymmetrical competition).



Game Spaces


Another very interesting discussion in the Future Learn course was about video game spaces and how game narratives are conveyed. Jenkins outlines four types of narrative methods: evocative, enacted, embedded and emergent. I chose to apply these to the Dark Souls series, one of my all time favourite games, but also one which features all of the above narrative methods.





Dark Souls


The game world is full of mystery; all you are told is your vague task and sent on your way, filling in the gaps is up to the player. As such it approaches storytelling using evocative game spaces, a brutally difficult enacted narrative, lore and mysteries in the embedded descriptions of in-game items and emergent narrative from the NPCs you find/chose to interact with. Subjectively, this game epitomises a great balance of all narrative methods.




Decolonialising Game Spaces


Thinking about the decolonialisation of game spaces, I thought about a game I had been playing this week: Hitman 3. Whilst playing I noticed a disappointing lack of national/regional accents. The game features levels in China and Dubai to name a few but features very few local accents. However, following our discussions on design thinking and its potential flaws, this began to make sense. I feel that the game was lazily created (the English level, set in a Dartmoor country mansion, has a baseball in the garden) and believe this is attributed to a use of design thinking within the game industry. A symptom of this is the fairly blatant colonialisation of the games locations.


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